Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Waterford Whisky. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Waterford Whisky was founded by a team led by Mark Raynier, the wine broker who previously resurrected the then-mothballed Bruichladdich Distillery. Bruichladdich was eventually sold to Rémy Cointreau, but Mark apparently still had another whisky project in him—and this one took him across the water to Ireland, where he launched Waterford Whisky in Waterford, Ireland, in 2015.
Where Bruichladdich is romantically nostalgic, Waterford is high-tech. The distillery–which the brand calls its “facilitator,” in an unusual application of corporate HR-jargon–was built inside a former Guinness brewery originally constructed in 2003. Hard to imagine a better spot for a malt whiskey distillery. It’s still kitted out with all the fancy brewing gear, including a hydromill that mills malt underwater for better hydration and a massive fermentation room that would be a great place to film the climax of an ‘80s action flick. The two pot stills, however, are historic, reclaimed from the Inverleven Distillery after it was mothballed.
Waterford is hyper-focused on provenance and terroir (or tēireoir, according to the Gaelic spelling the brand prefers), sourcing barley from nearly 100 different farms. A storage facility designed to keep individual lots of barley separate enables their explorations of provenance-specific flavor, including farm-specific releases. They’re also keen supporters of alternative farming practices, including organic and biodynamically grown barley.
The result is a host of specific, “barley-forward” bottlings designed to showcase the subtle variations in flavor resulting from barley provenance. This release, Luna 1.1, is part of the brand’s Arcadian Series, which highlights “maverick farmers, inspirational grocers, iconoclasts.”
Luna 1.1 is billed as the world’s first entirely biodynamic whiskey, using biodynamically grown barley from four different farms produced during the 2017 growing season. Visit the website for the release and you can click around an interactive map showing the location of each farm along with the grower’s name, barley variety, and soil type. If you’re the kind of person who wants to know that the barley in your whisky was grown in Grey Brown Podzolic and Fontstown Series soils, rejoice.
The whiskey was aged for just three years, two months, in a combination of first-fill and virgin American oak, French oak, and sweet wine casks. It was bottled at 50% ABV, without coloring or chill filtration.
Tasting Notes: Waterford Luna 1.1
Vital Stats: Irish single malt whiskey made wholly from biodynamically grown barley. 50% ABV/100 proof. Aged three years, two months, in a combination of first-fill and virgin American oak, French oak, and sweet wine casks. Natural color, non-chill-filtered. Priced around $110.
Appearance: Very pale, almost watery gold.
Nose: Estery, high-toned, and brandy-like, with aromas of pomegranate, red cherry, Comice pears, and white flowers bolstered by those weird butterscotch baking chips and porridge. With water, it’s meatier and more sulfurous, with sauvignon blanc-like grassiness.
Palate: Lots of red fruit comes through at first, with maraschino cherry and currants followed by nougat, almond croissant, cinnamon, and white grapes. The finish falls off quickly, leaving the thin, slightly acidic flavor of white wine and a soft warming sensation. Water amplifies the sweetness and reveals more oily blanched almonds, buttery pear, pink peppercorn, and a hint of smoldering electrical work.
You’d never confuse Waterford Luna 1.1 with bourbon. Youthful, elegant, and perhaps a bit awkward, this is not a generous whiskey. While it’s a little hard to love, I found myself returning to it more frequently than I originally expected, especially in an aperitif context. When I started thinking of it more like barley eau de vie, things clicked. While it doesn’t offer the decadent experience of many mainstream whiskeys, I appreciated the reminder that not all whisky has to taste like vanilla extract or Oloroso sherry.
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Margarett Waterbury is the author of Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland's Whiskies and a full-time freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Whisky Advocate, Food and Wine, Spirited Magazine, Artisan Spirit, Edible Seattle, Sip Northwest, Civil Eats, Travel Oregon, Artisan Spirit, and many other publications. She is...