Review: Waterford Distillery Heritage Hunter and Organic Cuvee Gaia

Review: Waterford Distillery Heritage Hunter and Organic Cuvee Gaia

Waterford continues to expand its diverse portfolio of terroir-focused Irish whiskeys. Today we’re taking a look at a recent addition to the Arcadian Farm Origin Series which, like last year’s peated offerings, showcases “maverick farming” with a focus on heritage grains. The second offering is an all cuvee expression of Waterford’s Organic Gaia. Let’s check them out.

Waterford Distillery Heritage Hunter – The first in yet another Waterford series, this time focusing on the use of heritage grains, this whiskey is made from barley named after the pioneering plant breeder Dr. Herbert Hunter, who first introduced the strain in 1959. Matured for a little over three years in a combination of 45% first-fill U.S. oak; 19% virgin U.S. oak; 21% French oak; and 15% Vin Doux Naturel casks. The nose is thick and savory with sourdough bread and warm yeast rolls. It’s all grain at first but fresh and well-baked, with little of the grittiness often present in young malts. A mild sweetness develops as it opens with notes of honey butter, overcooked caramel, and baked apples. The palate is brighter than I’d expected, with a welcome, honeyed sweetness. Notes of golden raisin and banana bread give way to lemon oil and orange sherbet, plus a lacing of dry baking spices and fresh cracked pepper that accentuates an even, gentle warmth. It’s rich and oily, drying slightly on the finish with vanilla custard, green herbs, and candied lime peel. One of the best Waterford releases yet. 100 proof. A- / $130

Waterford Distillery Organic Cuvee Gaia – While Organic Gaia stood alone, this whiskey is a blend of multiple vintages made from organic Irish barley grown on six different organic farms. Aged 4 years, 7 months in a combination of 28% first-fill U.S. oak; 25% virgin U.S. oak; 19% French oak; and 28% Vin Doux Naturel. The aroma lacks some of the more floral and green aromatics of the standard organic Gaia bottling, but it’s still doughy with a touch of salinity and a preponderance of stewed dark fruit. Notes of berry pie filling only build as it opens in the glass, becoming a bit overcooked with accents of leather and char. On the palate, ripe blackberry and blueberry dominate, sticky sweet and gently tart. A bit of barley sugar and black tea arrive on the midpalate before eroding into more berry jam and a smattering of baking spice. It’s a bit monotone and overly fruited, but this feels vastly more mature vs. the original Gaia release. 100 proof. B+ / $90

Waterford Distillery Heritage Hunter




Drew Beard is assistant editor for Drinkhacker and winner of several booze-related merit badges, including Certified Specialist in Spirits and Executive Bourbon Steward. A former federal employee turned hotelier and spirits journalist, he looks forward to his next midlife crisis.

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