Irish Whiskey distillery Waterford has bottled its first Heritage whisky, Hunter, by resurrecting a rare barley variety from a bygone era.
First introduced in 1959, Hunter barley was acclaimed for its distinctive flavours for almost two decades before yield-enhancing varieties took preference.
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, Heritage: Hunter has been bottled at 50% ABV, with 10,000 bottles being released globally and 1,000 bottles in the U.S.
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 flavours, Heritage: Hunter is the latest milestone in the distillery’s journey to uncover unique flavours through different agricultural techniques, terroirs, grains and seeds.
While Heritage: Hunter was developed purely for the curiosity of flavour, 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.
“Malt whisky gets its flavour, its complexity, from barley,” explained Mark Reynier, Waterford Distillery Founder and CEO. “Over time, this inherent flavour 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 uncovered remarkable insight into what whisky would have tasted like decades ago.”
“Our ultimate aim is to identify the most flavour-expressive genes from these legendary barley varieties and cross them with modern breeds, so they have more agronomic potential,” continued Reyner. “This will give us a ‘greatest hits’ of barley flavours and the ultimate variety for the most intense and naturally flavoursome whiskies.”
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.
For more information, go to waterfordwhisky.com