An extremely complex and sublime Irish Whiskey of unparrelled taste. It may not be for everyone, but for those that it is, this whiskey is magic.
Notes: Probably the largest collection of Irish Whiskey expressions you have never heard of, and capturing the high ground of premium, single malt, single-origin, and certainly organic and biodynamic whiskies in the world! This is one of the many expressions that Waterford Distillery makes. I have to admire the absolutely obsessive, possibly pathologically OCD in a charming way, that this group goes about making whisky. Using biodynamic techniques with heirloom barley varieties they seem they seem to have obsessively thought out every other aspect of distillation, aging, cask wood aging, and every other possible point to produce a stunning whisky. One of the more interesting aspects is the careful selection of a variety of casks used in the aging process, a mix of virgin American Oak, French Chateau Lafite Rothschild, and Sherry cask, and the percentages used in the final blending. This particular expression from Waterford may take a little explanation for those not entirely familiar with geeky whisky terminology. Single Malt as it is usually understood to be, and the numerous examples of such that make it so (such as the numerous and famous Single malt Scotch whiskies such as Lagavulin, Macallan, Balvenie, etc., etc.) are relatively simple blends of multiple barrels from a single distillery. Each barrel, due to numerous, sometimes inscrutable factors, is somewhat different from each other but is at least somewhat homogenous to a certain degree – in that they are pretty much the same type of barrel stock, usually from the same sources and other factors limiting the spread of differences to a manageable and reproducible range. This is so they can reliably produce a single malt that is technically a blend of barrels but tastes the same to a great degree. This is, of course, the industry standard, but it is usually ( try almost always) a very closely guarded secret as to the makeup of the blend. This is not the case with Waterford Distillery, which is easily the most transparent and informative distillery in the entire whiskey industry.
Why, may you ask, is this important?
It allows an unparalleled window into the craft of whiskey making and all the subtle variations and possibilities that lead to the ultimate synthesis of a whiskey. Every variable and decision, from the origin of the grain to the multitude of steps involved in the cultivation, milling preparation, fermentation, distillation, and aging of a whiskey, are detailed and give an unparalleled behind-the-scenes account of how a whiskey comes to be.
This is of particular, nay, singular importance and of necessity for this very particular Irish single malt. Waterford has outdone itself in both the production of and documentation of this single malt. using two dozen ( 24) component malts using 4 different species of barley from 23 farms, an extremely long average fermentation of 140 hours, 21 different barrel varieties, and aged for 2,196 days ( 6 years, 6 days). It is billed as their “Ultimate Expression,” indeed.
By far their most complex offering in the already considerable Irish Whiskey portfolio, this is what they consider their “Grand Vin” – which is a complex blending of individual component whiskies to form a whole. Think of an orchestra of individual musical instruments and how their harmonious integration is so much bigger than the sum of its parts- the same applies here. To use a more exotic example, there is a saying in Grasse ( the center for perfume manufacture in France) that a good perfumier can hold 65 different scents in their head, knowing each one and being able to synthesize what they would be like in a blend, in what proportion, and have that prove out in the real world. Whereas a truly great Master Perfumier can hold 400 separate scents and do the same alchemy. This is very much what a master vintner or master blender does. The people at Waterford have certainly mastered this craft with this extremely complex bottling.
Appearance: Beautiful grain amber color. Medium oily coat on swirling with a very defined meniscus/edgeline upon which you see the slow formation and even slower descent of legs back into the glass. What is interesting ( at least to some of us) is the homogeneity of the blend – there is no separation of the components – even though there are at least 24 of them! They all slide back ever so slowly together – well done!
First Impression: Fruit and sweet barley malt, very ethereal, mixing with notes of English leather, heather, grass, and peat>As it opens up, a subtle citrus orange and date notes start to blossom along with strawberries, touches of pineapple and jam.A sort of malty perfume of grain, spices, and fruit.
Taste: Delicious, with a slightly oily entry that dries peat, malt cereal, soft palm sugars, and barley for a start. Virtually unmatched complexity and variety of tastes from the skillful blending of multiple complex barrel components to make for an artful canvas of whiskey. As it lingers, it starts to pleasantly dry and sweeten in different parts of the tongue and progresses to a heather, malt, and peat finish with touches of Spanish or Lebanese cedars and fruit notes to a long, pleasant, ever so slightly sweet and woody finish. As the Japanese say, “Shiripin” has a tail.
Drinks: Really too subtle to mix – and a bit of a waste, really, but given its low cost vs. quality, you could use it for a number of high-end cocktails where you are looking for a great deal of complexity and subtlety from a whiskey. Otherwise, I would say stick to a decent-tasting glass (Glencairn, Riedel, NEAT, Vinum, or similar) to properly appreciate what you are drinking. Also, a few drops of warm water (not distilled, RO, or similar horror) will open the whiskey up nicely.
Bottle: As usual with this company, a beautiful damn bottle! A deep cobalt blue, slight inset for the label with a series of ridges toward the bottom gives it a sort of machine age or maybe deco overtones. The labels are a combination of silk screening and paper labels with a rather impressionistic/abstract label design using embossed lettering at the top of the label and with an embossed sigil that you catch at the right angle to the light. Above this is “Waterford” silk-screened directly on the bottle itself. The back label is a single piece of plastic film with 9-point ( ?) lettering. The label contains a short narrative, the growers’ names, and the Teirreoir code, which links to an exhaustive and lovingly detailed genealogy of your bottle. The stopper is a Pinkish red glass stopper with a tightly rigid nylon gasket that gives a great seal without being too much of a challenge to open. and a Sigil ( Same as on the front label – see above)with the number “6” in a circle directly below the design. The Glass stopper is a tight seal to protect the contents but well engineered enough for an easy opening ( something that a number of bottles have yet to master). Overall, it is a very carefully thought-out and executed repository for a remarkable spirit.
Other: Waterford has one of the most diverse portfolios of Irish Whiskey out there. Not only are they extremely terroir examples using very specific and carefully grown barley, but they are branching out stylistically in terms of their blending and their treatments ( such as peating) of their products. Definitely worth a follow on their website or sign up for their newsletter or podcasts.
Final Thoughts: One of the most complex and well-executed Irish Whiskies you can buy – and at a VERY competitive price compared to every other Irish whiskey out there.
Website: www.waterford whiskey.com is the main page for ALL the whiskeys in their portfolio – at least for an extensive overview of them, their ethos, and production methods. For a more precise link to this whiskey in particular, go here: waterfordwhiskey.com/teroir/the-cuvee-koffi