Review: Waterford Distillery Single Farm Origin Single Malts: Rathclogh 1.1, Dunmore 1.1, and Dunbell 1.1
Ireland’s Waterford Distillery is the next act for former Scotch whisky pioneer Mark Reynier, who famously resurrected Bruichladdich in the early 2000s (and sold it in 2012). The distillery is located on the site of a former Guinness brewery in the city of Waterford, which sits not far from Ireland’s southeast coast. Since 2015, they’ve been producing a range of unique whiskies that are finally ready for primetime.
Bruichladdich was one of the early Scotch pioneers to highlight the role of terroir in whisky-production, and that concept has apparently become the driving ethos for Waterford. They focus exclusively on distillations from biodynamic barley cultivation to produce an “uber-provenance” range of single malt whiskeys, called the Single Origin Series, that showcase the nuances of Irish terroir from farm to farm (a whopping 86 of them, in fact).
We received three of these Single Farm Origin whiskies for review. While the notes that follow include extensive aging info, you can use each release’s unique “Teireoir Code” for an even more absurd level of detail, including an audio track of sounds from the farm. Not kidding. Anyway, let’s drink!
All three are 100 proof.
Waterford Single Farm Origin Rathclogh Edition 1.1 – This single malt was produced from barley grown by Richard Raftice on his low-lying, quick-drying, glacier meltwater gravel soils in Kilkenny, north of the distillery. It was aged just under four years in four different cask types: first-fill American (31%), virgin American (19%), premium French (25%), and the remaining 25% in “vin doux naturel,” Waterford’s umbrella term for fortified wine casks like port and sherry. Maybe I’m buying into the marketing too much on this one, but this nose smells how I imagine Irish barley fields to smell. It’s bright and earthy with dewy notes of straw and clay. There’s a bit of citrus, but even that has an earthy edge to it, almost like charred lemon, and some saltwater taffy adds sweetness. The palate is immediately big and sweet with green, grassy notes dominating. There’s a unique minerality in this that you just don’t see often in single malt, but it comes across just a little too sharp, accented by clove and a bit of overbearing sweetness. Rock candy and a persistent, honeyed malt note barrel cross the palate into the lingering finish. B / $90
Waterford Single Farm Origin Dunmore Edition 1.1 – This single malt was produced using barley grown by John Tynan in County Laois on a westerly-facing, lowland terroir by an ancient medieval fort (for what that’s worth). It was aged just under four years in four different cask types: first-fill American (33%), virgin American (18%), premium French (25%), and vin doux naturel (24%). While the barley in this one was grown farther north, there’s not a lot of cask type difference from the Rathclogh. Still, the aromas are very different. This whisky has a more classically malt-forward nose with sweet cereals, ginger, and Honey Grahams dominating. On the palate, it drinks more classic, too, nicely rounded and rich with a doughy sweetness and lots of orchard fruit notes — pears and apples all stewed and heavily spiced. It’s mouth-coating and oily into the generous finish, accented by a lingering bit of lemon curd. A- / $90
Waterford Single Farm Origin Dunbell Edition 1.1 – This single malt was produced from barley grown by Ned Murphy, east of the River Nore and also in Kilkenny. The soils are described as being “deep” and “loamy” and “derived from glacial drift.” It was aged just under four years, also in four different cask types: first-fill American (35%), virgin American (20%), premium French (25%), and vin doux naturel (20%). The nose is lightly sweet and youthful with notes of beeswax, pastry crust, and subtle stone fruit. The palate is bright with lemon zest, dried pear, and some baking spice. It’s exceptionally light-bodied, so those flavors never really coalesce or linger for very long. There’s a nice bit of gingery spice on the mid-palate, but the overall experience, especially the finish, is marred by a bland, malty sweetness that turns oddly vegetal as it lingers on the tongue. B- / $90
The true diversity of these three whiskies is striking and entirely intentional. After all, the Single Origin Series is meant to be a peak behind the curtain at the extensive “single” single malt library Waterford will eventually rely on to construct, in Mr. Reynier’s estimation, “the most profound single malt whisky ever created.” Stay tuned to see how that goes.
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