...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Waterford Week begins with Waterford Ballykilcavan 1.1 Irish Single Malt

I love Ireland and I love Irish whiskey, so I'm rooting for one of the scores of new Irish distilleries to legitimately challenge the old guard. Waterford Distillery seemed like it was best dressed for success. Mark Reynier had a dozen years of experience resurrecting Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay. With Waterford his team has put a lot of emphasis on Ireland's terroir (or tēireoir per the website), and the official site is loaded with geeky details about every bottled batch. So I decided to start sourcing Waterford samples.

Then I attended a tasting of six Waterford whiskies. And I enjoyed approximately 0 of them.

Two elements troubled the whiskies. Firstly, they're three-year-old whiskies that tasted like three-year-old whiskies, hot, yeasty, and too unformed to get a sense of the barley. Secondly, not only can Reynier not quit his love of wine + whisk(e)y, but (per his interviews) he's committing to it 100%. I have a difficult time discerning how French wine casks promote Irish terroir, both in theory and the reality of the liquid.

So I stopped amassing Waterford samples with those I'd obtained via bottle splits before that tasting. I'm going to try each of the five this week.

First up:

Waterford Ballykilcavan 1.1

Distillery: Waterford
Owner: Renegade Spirits
Region: Waterford, Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Age: 3 years (2016-2020)
Maturation: 45% American oak, 37% French oak, 18% Vin Doux Naturel casks
Outturn: 8640 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


The nose starts with wort and white grape juice. Then...is that peat? No. No, that's sulfur. With time, smaller notes of grape candy, apple cider and nectarines appear. The palate, more manageable than the nose led on. It's very doughy with an undercurrent of stout. Some hairy sulfur mixes with a moderate honeyed sweetness. The finish has a good length to it, with tart apples, sultanas and yeast. A little bit of element S, as well.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

Less sulfur, more apple and grape juices on the nose. Some florals on top, walnuts underneath. The palate becomes more acidic, less sweet. Some lemons, salt and sultanas. Kinda flat overall. It finishes with salt, honey and vague citrus.


Sadly, this fits right into my struggles with the 6 others I'd tried a year and a half ago. Many distilleries produce gin and vodka to scare up revenue while their whiskies age. Others release barely legal whisk(e)y. Waterford has chosen to do the latter. All the pretty packaging and nerd-heaven website data can't make up for this really young product that has the same theme of the world's capital "C" Craft whiskey: immature spirit and aggressive cask influence. All the grapes, sultanas and S point to the Vin Doux Naturel vessels, and perhaps those French oak casks as well. The sulfur-sensitive population may want to stay away, as there's enough S to trigger a feces-filled fedora.

At least with Bruichladdich's early Local Barley products, the distillery waited 6-8 years, and though the spirit was upfront and young, it wasn't raw. Tomorrow I'll review the 4 year old Ballykilcavan 1.2.

Availability - close to selling through in Europe and USA
Pricing - all over the place
Rating - 76