Waterford Distillery Resurrects Forgotten Barley Variety to Create New Heritage Whisky

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Waterford Has Ventured Back in Time to Reintroduce Rare Heritage Barley to Single Malt Whisky

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Mark Reynier, Waterford Distillery Founder and CEO explains, “Our ultimate aim is to identify the most flavor-expressive genes from these legendary barley varieties and cross them with modern breeds, so they have more agronomic potential."

Ireland’s Waterford Distillery, terroir-driven Irish whisky producer, has bottled its first Heritage whisky, Hunter, by resurrecting a rare barley variety from a bygone era.

The barley used in this release is named after pioneering plant breeder, Dr. Herbert Hunter and the barley was first introduced in 1959. Hunter barley was acclaimed for its distinctive flavors for almost two decades before yield-enhancing varieties took preference.

The new single malt whisky is the latest milestone in Waterford Distillery’s journey to uncover whisky’s most unique flavors, through different agricultural techniques, terroirs, grains and seeds. As part of Waterford Whisky’s Arcadian Farm Origins, Heritage: Hunter utilizes the best of modern technology to identify historic flavors and bring them back to life for today’s single malt connoisseurs.

Working alongside partners Minch Malt and the Irish Department of Agriculture, it took Waterford more than eight years of leveraging lost breeding programs from the 1990s, to discover the original flavors and when barley first evolved with, and adapted to, Ireland’s fields and climate – its terroirs. The barley used in Heritage: Hunter was grown in nutritional soil with a higher humus content, ideal for carbon storage and enhancing climate protection.

Costing three times as much as regular barley, Hunter seeds were upscaled from 50 grams into enough barley to produce 50 barrels from the first harvest. Waterford Distillery then extracted spirit from two other long-forgotten heritage varieties, Goldthorpe and Old Irish, to create a run of 10,000 bottles.

While Heritage: Hunter was developed purely for the curiosity of flavor, it also has environmental benefits. The barley was grown in soil with a high humus content, which retains water more efficiently than conventional soil and therefore protects crops against periods of drought. This protection is enhanced by the fact that Hunter barley has a larger root ball than modern varieties and better access to soil nutrients.

Mark Reynier, Waterford Distillery Founder and CEO explains, “malt whisky gets its flavor, its complexity, from barley. Over time, this inherent flavor has been compromised as distilleries prioritized yield. However, because Waterford Whisky is agricultural produce not a manufactured product, we took the step to resurrect iconic yet forgotten barley varieties. In doing so, we have been able to uncover remarkable insight into what whisky would have tasted like decades ago.”

“Our ultimate aim is to identify the most flavor-expressive genes from these legendary barley varieties and cross them with modern breeds, so they have more agronomic potential. This will give us a 'greatest hits' of barley flavors and the ultimate variety for the most intense and naturally flavorsome whiskies,” says Mark.

With Waterford Distillery’s unique TÉIREOIR code on every bottle, drinkers are given uninhibited access to every detail of its individual journey from barley to bottle. Every meaningful detail of the whisky is openly offered, showcasing the diligence and dedication to which every ingredient harvested, stored, malted, and distilled.

Waterford’s Heritage: Hunter is 50% ABV, with 10,000 bottles being released globally and 1,000 bottles in the U.S. This whisky is available in 700ml bottles for $129.99 in select retail stores starting in December within the U.S. Waterford Whisky is imported by Glass Revolution Imports. For more information and purchasing: https://www.glassrev.com/waterford-where-to-buy-heritage-hunter-ballybannon-fenniscourt

Tasting Notes by Ned Gahan, Head Distiller at Waterford Distillery:

The Heritage Hunter is matured in a combination of 45% first-fill U.S. oak; 19% virgin U.S. oak; 21% Premium French oak; and 15% Vin Doux Naturel.

Color: pale gold with unctuous oils.

Nose: earthy, dry soil, lemon sherbet, red apple skin, dry bark, barnyard, petrichor, rolled barley, baked salt, chalk.

Taste: orange cake, dry savory spice, cloves, porridge with prunes, wood char, citrus oils. A dry, green finish with a gentle spice.

About Waterford Whisky: Waterford Whisky is on a quest to unearth whisky’s most natural flavors. Unashamedly influenced by the world’s greatest winemakers, Waterford brings the same intellectual drive, methodology and rigor to unearth the nuances that make Waterford Whisky the most profound single malt ever created. Across southern Ireland, warmed by the Gulf Stream, temperate, moist air crosses fertile soils to produce a verdant landscape and the world’s finest barley. Since barley is the source of malt whisky’s complex flavors, it makes abundant sense to focus on where and how the barley is cultivated. Those flavors are shaped by place, by the soils that nourish its roots, by the microclimate in which it ripens. By terroir. Waterford is a whisky of the world, born of Irish barley. For more information, please visit https://waterfordwhisky.com/

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Collin Smith
Colangelo & Partners
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