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New Progressive Distilleries: Waterford Distillery

Distilleries in the Spotlight

26.06.2020

Discover the story behind this pioneering whisky project

Exciting new releases from Waterford Distillery

Discover the story behind this pioneering whisky project

Discover the story behind this pioneering whisky project

“Terroir-Driven Single Malt Irish Whisky”, is the phrase coined by the new Waterford Distillery in the south-east of Ireland to describe the type of single malt that is produced there.

Waterford Distillery is the brainchild of Mark Reynier - former CEO of Bruichladdich, who led the distillery’s resurrection. It is most likely an injustice to say that Reynier has a career immersed in the booze industry. In 1985 he founded esteemed wine merchants Mark Reynier Fine Wines and the La Réserve retail chain in Soho London, before later on establishing the well respected indy whisky bottler, Murray McDavid, with existing business partner Simon Coughlin, and Gordon Wright (who had previously been a director at Springbank Distillery). In 2000, Reynier acquired Bruichladdich distillery from Whyte and Mackay and led a revival from despondent obsolete Islay distillery into the powerhouse it is today, creating well-recognised brands such as Botanist Gin, Octomore, Port Charlotte, (the list goes on...)

It is perhaps his experience in the wine trade which is most interesting and influential to Reynier’s approach to whisky-making today. He is a true believer in the presence of terroir within a distilled liquid, a very common concept in wine, this however remains a contentious subject in the whisky world. Terroir is the concept that a particular place or region's climate, soils and aspect (terrain) affect the taste of the wine, and as Reynier believes also spirit, that is produced there.

After leaving Bruichladdich Distillery in 2012, he founded the Renegade Rum Company - an independent bottler of premium rums and now industry-changing rum distillery in Grenada.

It was only natural for Reynier to return to his whisky roots soon enough, and continue his exploration into the relationship between the spirit and terroir. Noting the wild success of Irish whiskey in recent years, Reynier founded the Waterford Distillery in 2014 from a converted former Guinness brewery and set out on his mission to produce the first terroir-driven Irish single malt whisky. 

Waterford Distillery is a unique gem in the Irish distilling landscape, a place where old meets new and tradition meets innovation. Taking heed from traditions discovered on Islay, the single malt produced from Waterford is a modern-day classic, led by a true rebirth built on a solid foundation of respected distilling traditions, experience and unique forward-thinking.

The distillery runs a grain-to-glass operation with the first spirit running from the stills in their state-of-the-art facility in 2016. Barley is king in their operation and they have sourced over 72 Irish farms with 19 distinct soil types to provide such. Using pioneering technology they are keeping track, with each farmer's crop harvests, stored, malted and distilled separately. It sounds rather laborious, but we are assured that this will capture in spirit each farm's unique terroir, ensuring individuality and integrity from field to barrel. At the moment all of their whisky is matured in the best of French or American Oak.

But the innovation doesn't stop at production, they want to ensure they are offering a full package experience for their whisky fans. Every bottle of Waterford whisky features its own pioneering TÉIREOIR code. Once entered, this will "reveal a host of unprecedented and engaging content related to the release. Using rich photography, and drawing upon our unrivalled digital logistics systems that collects thousands of data points, you will be able to discover maps, the harvest, the grower, distillation details as well as view the full spectrum of wood".

The much-anticipated inaugural release from the distillery, 1st Cuvee: Pilgrimage, was due to be released at an open-day event at the distillery on 25 April 2020. Just 1,000 bottles were produced to be labelled “I Was There”, however, due to the global Coronavirus pandemic the launch celebration plans were sadly cancelled. Guests who had pre-purchased tickets to the open-day, will instead be sent their inaugural release to their homes.

Following their inaugural release, Waterford Distillery has now launched two commercial releases, five years after spirit first ran from their stills. The new Single Farm origin series (a series of three fully-matured Irish malts) is described as “an uber-provenance range of limited-edition natural whiskies that explore Irish terroir one far, one place at a time”. The whiskies are “expressions of precision and rarity”, showcasing barley flavours from individual Irish farms and harvests.

 

BANNOW ISLAND: EDITION 1.1

Distilled in 2016 from Overture barley grown by Ed Harpur on the extreme southern coast of Co. Wexford, where salt-laden Atlantic winds and sandy soils create a unique, if somewhat challenging, terroir. It was here that the Normans took their first conquering steps in 1169. Sandbanks and wind-blown dunes rise up over a lost town long faded from the map.

 

BALLYKILCAVAN: EDITION 1.1

Distilled in 2016 from Taberna barley grown by David Walsh-Kemmis west of the River Barrow in Co. Laois in the barley heartlands, where his fertile fields are sheltered by ancient woodland. David is the thirteenth generation since 1639 to farm at Ballykilcavan. And here, in his ancient farmhouse, sits Waterford's inaugural Barley of the Year trophy awarded for this 2015 harvest. After maturing in an alluring combination of exceptional French and American oak – all of which are first use only for whisky – each Single Farm Origin whisky is bottled at 50% ABV without colouring, chill-filtration or any additives. Totally natural.

 

You can view these first releases in our current June Auction, ending Monday 6 June from 7pm BST.

Eilidh Jack

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