Irish barley whiskeys smoked with native Irish peat have, in modern times, been pretty much a non-existent things. Waterford Distillery, known for its exploration of Irish whiskey terroir, is looking to change that with the recent bottling of two whiskeys in this rare style.
Waterford’s Peated: Fenniscourt and Peated: Ballybanon, according to those behind them, are the first modern Irish Peated whiskies in generations. The approach to crafting it included selecting two Single Farm Origin barleys – from what is described as distinctive terroirs – to see if the flavor profiles could stand up to the smokiness of peat.
Irish peat in of itself, it is said, has been redundant in whisky production since the turn of the 20th century, which essentially meant all knowledge of how to use Irish peat had passed out of memory. Therefore the project involved some trial and error in sourcing the appropriate peat sources with the moisture levels appropriate for whisky production.
Waterford sourced small amounts of peat cut from County Kildare, and worked alongside their established malting partner, Minch Malt. Because there was no infrastructure in Ireland capable of peating barley, the distillery needed to ship small amounts of Irish peat and Irish barley to Scotland for the kilning process to take place – before being shipped back to Waterford for distillation.
:Peat was a core part of Ireland’s heritage,” said Neil Conway, Head Brewer of Waterford Distillery, in a prepared statement, “whether that be commercially, for heating homes in rural countryside, or for the production of whisky. It was the ancient fuel source.
“At Waterford Distillery, since we place barley – the source of whisky’s natural flavour – at the centre of our universe, we are gathering the widest array of pure and natural flavour components. It felt only natural to nod to our cultural heritage, preserve old ways, and explore the peating process with modern varieties.
“Malt whisky is already one of the most complex spirits in the world because it is made from barley – the best in the world coming from Ireland. So combining this with ancient peated methods that are no longer widely available in Ireland, added intriguing new layers of flavour complexity. Cultivating Irish peat and learning how the impact of moisture levels can determine the whiskies smokiness is just another step to quest to unearth whisky’s most natural flavours.”
Official tasting notes for each release are below from Ned Gahan, Head Distiller at Waterford:
While the Peated: Ballybanon has a stronger, smokier flavour and with an intense finish, the Peated Fenniscourt is a more subtle smokiness, with a softer finish.
PEATED: BALLYBANNON: Matured in a combination of 39% first-fill US oak; 21% virgin US oak; 21% Premium French oak; and 19% Vin Doux Naturel casks.
- Colour: light gold with everlasting oils.
- Nose: soft peat, almonds, lavender honey, a seaside escape, driftwood fire smoke, green apples.
- Taste: peat kick, very chewable, BBQ fish by the sea, buttery, samphire, warm apple and almond tart with honeycomb ice cream, endless finish.
PEATED: FENNISCOURT Matured in a combination of 37% first-fill US oak; 19% virgin US oak; 20% Premium French oak; and 24% Vin Doux Naturel.
- Colour: rich buttermilk with fabulous oils.
- Nose: turf! Saltiness, pear skin, woodland moss, dried thyme, malted biscuits, marzipan, baked banana.
- Taste: dry rope, barbecue, bog myrtle, white pepper, meaty; soft, earthy warmth, a dry finish in gentle waves.