To most drinkers across the globe, the term ‘single malt’ is synonymous with scotch. In fact, the Irish have been distilling whiskey from barley for every bit as long as their Scottish counterparts. Yet when it comes to super-premium sales within the subcategory—bottles that average more than $35 per unit—there is no basis of comparison; scotch has the market cornered. For now.
Waterford Distillery is looking to even the playing field. In 2015, the upstart producer began laying down liquid at its facility 100 miles south of Dublin. Now they’re finally set to release Single Farm Origin: a series of three fully-matured Irish malts.
Although it remains a contentious subject in the world of spirits, Waterford is a true believer in the presence of terroir within a distilled liquid. In an effort to fully express such, founder and CEO Mark Reynier utilizes all sorts of proprietary methodology aimed at that end. Production begins with a mash filter as opposed to the more traditional mash tub, and fermentation times last upwards of 5 days—almost twice as long as the industry standard. The unorthodox approach extracts every ounce of flavor from the malted grain, which can be discerned after it rolls out the other end of the still.
All distillates were matured in a combination of first-fill French and American oak. After a minimum of three years in the cooperage, the liquid was married and bottled at 50% ABV, devoid of coloring, chill-filtration or any other form of adulteration. They come elegantly packaged in a presentation of sturdy, translucent cobalt, a glass topper holding it all in.
Starting in June, you’ll find bottles on the shelf at a suggested retail price of $85. It’s a stately sum for non-age-statement single malt—even by scotch standards. But Reynier is banking on the competitive advantage that his craftsmanship affords. The surging nature of Irish whiskey won’t hurt either. In the United States, no category of spirit is growing as fast. Since 2002, super premium sales have increased by 3385%, according to data from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
As stated by Reynier consumers have been “hoodwinked” regarding the origins of whiskey’s true quality. To him it is not so much the shape of the stills, nor the mineral content of the water, nor even the provenance of the cooperage. It’s all about that original building block, the barley itself. Indeed, few other distilleries are investing as heavily into this component as Waterford. Now the world will see if the end result was worth it. After June, subsequent offerings from the Single Farm Origin series are set to arrive by October.