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July 2020 - Waterford Distillery

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

Our July tasting was a very special one for the Waterford Whiskey Society. Not only was it our first meeting back together after months of lockdown and meeting on Zoom but we were delighted to welcome our very own Waterford Distillery to our tasting in Revolution Waterford.

Waterford Whiskey Society were thrilled to announce that donated a bottle of the Ratheadon 1.1 signed by Ned Gahan, the head distiller, along with 4 other distillers and the farmer where the grain had been grown. This bottle would be used for a raffle to raise money for the Waterford City River Rescue CRBI which is a non-profit organisation who are a voluntary search and rescue service. They depend on sponsorship from the public to maintain their service along the River Suir, right where Waterford Distillery is located and we were very happy to help out along with Friends of Waterford Distillery.

For our first tasting, we sampled new make from Leeson Stanley’s farm in Johnstown, Donoughmore, Co. Kilkenny. This new make, at just over 71%, was distilled in November 2018 from Olympus grain and is destined for and exclusive to the Taiwanese market. This new make is part of the Elton Soil Series, the results due out very soon from the studies done bt Waterford Distillery as part of their ongoing Teireoir movement.

The new make had incredible depth of flavour, was very barley forward on the nose with a malty, spiciness on the palate with an almost farmyard taste along with cloves and ginger biscuit. The new make had an amazing oily, glycerol mouth feel and a creaminess to match. This is an exciting one to watch on release.

Next, to compare, Ned had us sample new make from Martin Foleys farm in Hook Head, Co. Wexford. This was distilled on 13th April 2019 from the same grain as the first new make, Olympus at just over 71%. This too is part of the Elton soil series. The difference in taste was immediately apparent, not being as barley forward on the nose but had hints of dried fruits and a barnyard note. On the palate it had slightly more alcohol burn with notes of white pepper, leather and cloves. What was amazing was the taste of saltiness that was evident, coming from the location of the farm.

Ned Gahan explained to us that Waterford Distillery is dedicated to the idea of the use of both organic and bio-dynamic farmed grains and the science behind getting the best distillate possible by maintain a low protein level during the process. They have a long slow distillation time to produce light, elegant and floral whiskeys with their fermentation time and malting time being longer that the average whiskey. Their whiskey is natural with no additives or colouring. They are dedicated to sourcing the best cask possible, currently using a combination of American First Fill, American Virgin Oak, French Oak and Vin Doux Naturel Casks. They have a unique trace and tacking system which allows them to trace each cask back to each single farm. While these are their standard cask, they are currently experimenting with other casks such as wild cherry, chestnut, mulberry and acacia.

Our next sample was the Single Farm Bannow 1.2 Release. This was from Ed Harpers farm on Bannow Island at an elevation of 30ft. The whiskey is overture grain, non-chill filtered, 3 years 10 months old and bottled at 50% ABV. The blend is a mix of 36% first fill, 21% American New, 17% French and 26% VDN casks. The colour is a beautiful honey colour, malty forward on the nose with tasting notes of pears, dark red currants, pink lady apples and pears. This whiskey has a beautiful spiciness and custard creaminess.

Next came Single Farm Ballymorgan 1.1 from Robert Millers farm in Ballycairn, Co. Wexford. This too is overture grain and is 3 years 10 months old. This grain was grown at an elevation of 280ft – the higher the elevation, the slower the growth. This is part of the Clonroche Science series. The whiskey is made of 35% first fill, 20% American New, 25% French and 20% VDN casks. On the nose this whiskey has notes of chocolate, the colour of golden barley. On the palate it is malty and not as sweet. Another beautiful whiskey.

Finally, Ned brought a surprise sample for the Waterford Whiskey Society to taste – the 1st Cuvee Pilgrimage. Needless to say, there was a huge cheer and round of applause when Ned announced this and the whiskey definitely did not disappoint. For this release Ned brought together 36 different farms, 4 different grains bottled at 50% ABV. This blend is made up of 36% American First Fill 35 litre blood tubs, 21% Virgin American Oak, 22% Premium French Oak and 21% Vin Doux Naturel. It was matured for 3 years, 5 months and 14 days. With its beautiful copper colour, on the nose it is very barley forward, has a sweetness and floral notes with a citrus and spicy hint. On the palate this is very oily, has a real depth of flavour of chocolate, ginger and dried fruit. A truly impressive whiskey for it’s age.

We would like to thank Waterford Distillery, Ned Gahan, Grace O'Reilly , their agronomist and Megan Kiely for making this a great night to remember and our very own Michael Higgins for all his hard work in organising a safe and enjoyable night along with Revolution Bar for hosting us and feeding us for the night.

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