Waterford Organic Gaia 1.1 Irish Single Malt Whisky Tasting Notes
Waterford Organic Gaia 1.1 Irish Single Malt Whisky
Tasting note compiled by Barry Chandler (@irishwhiskeybarry)
Organic Gaia 1.1 was distilled in 2016 from 100% certified organic Irish barley grown by a small, dedicated band of organic farmers in the south east of the country. It forms part of Waterford’s Arcadian Series, which highlights and celebrates radical growers and alternative philosophies, including heritage grains and unusual growing methods, all with a focus on barley being the most important element in whisky.
This whisky has been matured in an unusual collection of oak casks: 42% first-fill US oak, 17% virgin US oak, 23% premium French oak and 18% Vin Doux Naturel – sweet fortified wine casks. It’s a non age statement 4+yr old whisky, bottled at 50% ABV without coloring, chill-filtration or any additives.
In full disclosure, I’m the host of the Waterford Whisky Podcast (although I bought and paid for this bottle!) but long before my hosting duties I nailed my colors to the mast in 2019 proclaiming Waterford to be Ireland’s most exciting new distillery. I still believe in their approach, philosophy and vision.
The reality is that this is a generational vision, a project that won’t even truly see the fruit of its efforts for 5, 10 or even 20 years when the true impact of the most expensive barley, wood and techniques come together in aged single malt whiskies.
Everything we see released from the distillery now is but a glimpse into the future – today we’re witnessing a combination of the distillery laying the foundation, sharing the vision, investing in the raw materials all the while bottling and selling whiskies from the earliest stage of readiness for us to follow along.
As a fan of heavily sherried and fortified-wine forward whiskies, I often overlook Waterford when it comes to choosing a whisky to drink and I’ll be the first to admit that the flavors and notes have challenged me – challenged me to understand their source, their nuance and whether they fit my particular palate.
For this tasting I almost had to throw away my expectations of whiskies of a certain age and what flavors we might expect knowing the style of whisky and the cask used. It was a worthwhile exercise though because it created a new, different lens to look through. If the best of inputs are there, what can I learn from the output? Well, my tasting notes hopefully hint at what I found.
Light straw yellow
Bright, minty and briny on first nosing. Light floral grain whiskies spring to mind, though I’m reminded this is a malt whisky! 15 minutes in the glass reveals a soft, room temperature butter and a minuscule quantity of vanilla vying for space. Some soft fruit notes wrap up the nosing for me.
Oily and thick. Oysters, of all things, spring to mind, and a tingling, almost carbonated ginger spice. A vanilla icing sugar-dusted shortbread cookie follows the spice but the pepper and ginger never leave, they just hide for a moment.
Medium graham cracker finish laden with cracked black pepper and glimpses of honey.
I found no obvious way to identify the cask types or recognize their contribution based on what we’re familiar with and I’m wondering if this is part of the challenge that’s needed?. It’s complex in a way that I’m not yet sure I understand. I want to keep diving in to understand and want to keep trying the whiskies as they age and as they’re married together.
This particular release is a Cuvee – a marrying of different organic single malts from different farms (as no one farm could grow enough organic barley to make a distillation). I’ve found the Cuvee’s – like the Blood Brothers please to be the most interesting and most revealing of what’s to come. The Single Farm Releases give us the blocks – the cuvees show us what they can make. This is a bright, crisp, young whisky that has lessons for us that bely its age. The evaluations will just have to continue!
I’ve tasted some incredible samples from the warehouses in Waterford so if you’ve not connected with a release you’ve loved yet, I’d recommend keeping an open mind! There’s more on the way. Lot’s more. And some very surprising releases too!
Request Tasting Notes
Looking for tasting notes of a whiskey not yet covered? Whiskey Club members can request tasting notes for any Irish whiskey by filling out the form here. We’ll add this whiskey to the queue and let you know as soon as it’s published.