Waterford Whiskey is best known for its single-farm origin range, consisting of single malt Irish whiskeys made with barley grown at one specific farm. Each bottling is unique to its terroir and can be explored in depth using the terroir code stamped on each bottle. The concept contributes to a revitalization of the Irish whiskey market in which Waterford is at the forefront. However, its catalog doesn’t stop there. Waterford also offers its “Cuvée Concept,” including blends of these same single malts, creating more layered and complex whiskeys. As part of Waterford’s expansion to its USA distribution, it introduced two new expressions in this lineup: Cuvée “Koffi,” a blend of 24 single farm origins, and Cuvée Fumo, a peated rendition made up of four. Both carry an ABV of 50%.
While every Waterford product comes in a strikingly elegant blue bottle (with various colored glass stoppers), the artwork on the Cuvée Koffi is as individualistic as what’s inside. The abstract, multi-colored label comes from French artist Nathanaël Koffi, after whom this expression is named. It’s surprisingly subtle and delicate on the nose, akin to other higher-scale Irish whiskeys. Barley is the dominant player, but modest herbal and spice notes lead to a hint of lemon peel. On the palate, though, this expands into something spunky. Again, the barley is strong and sturdy, but earthy and grassy qualities peak through towards a finish cut sharply by brittle spice. The barley character in this is so robust that it’s reminiscent of a big-bodied, hoppy ale. It’s definitely a unique expression that, unfortunately, doesn’t quite “stick the landing” (in my humble opinion).
I would not put it past Waterford to break the PPM charts with a peated Cuvée expression, but its Fumo bottling comes in at a not-so-audacious 55 ppm. This rating of a whiskey’s phenol content measures its “peatiness.” Waterford scored a direct hit with this one (if you love peat!). Cuvée Fumo is undoubtedly a whiskey that will help you appreciate peat like never before. In many bold drams, the peat is all it has, but this whiskey offers so much more complimenting and uplifting the peat. Like the Koffi, the nose is much lighter and softer than the palate. Its coastal sea salt and brine perfectly balance its earthiness and potent barley. A deep charcoal impact overlays an oily, soothing texture with no harshness.
Although complex and layered, Cuvée Koffi pulls into too many directions and lacks cohesion. After all, it’s a blend of two dozen different and equally as complex single malts that, unfortunately, never meld. I will always enjoy new, distinct, and eccentric expressions, especially from a producer as remarkable as Waterford. While this is not exactly my cup of tea, it’s still an enjoyable dram, if for ambition alone.
As for the Cuvée Fumo, it’s among the best peated whiskies I’ve had the pleasure of sipping. It’s brawny, rich, and full of warmth but not overpowering, unlike some peated expressions that tend to go overboard. With distribution to the U.S. expanding, don’t hesitate to take advantage. Highly recommended!
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