Spirit Of The Week: Waterford Biodynamic Luna 1.1 Single Malt Whisky
Borrowing from the principles of biodynamic farming from fine wines, Luna elevates terroir in whisky to revolutionary new levels.
Ireland’s Waterford Distillery was founded on the concept of treating whisky with the same level of respect for terroir as one would find in fine wines. Meaning every season from every vineyard should be accepted as singular, where ideally you’ll never taste the same wine twice. For Waterford that’s how they approach their whisky.
Unlike most distilleries that source grain from countless farms and then distill them collectively, Waterford launched a Single Farm Origin label where they malt, mash, ferment, distill, age and bottle each farm’s grain independently.
Moreover they work exclusively with barley to make their spirit, as that is the grain Waterford founder Mark Reynier considers the ideal blank canvas for flavor creation. It should be unsurprising his latest venture is so keen on barley and terroir, as Reynier is the former CEO and founder of Bruichladdich, the famously terroir-obsessed scotch single malt distillery/label he resurrected in Islay back in 2000. Today Waterford has become the world’s largest producer of organic malt whisky.
For their first wave of Single Farm Origin expressions Waterford offered a trio of farms: Dunbell Edition 1.1, Dunmore Edition 1.1 and Rathclogh Edition 1.1. If you consider yourself such a #whiskeynerd that you like to see what effect a single farm barley can have on a finished product, select a couple of their Single Farm Origin bottles for the ultimate home experiment/taste test.
Elevating these concepts of terroir to an even higher degree is the latest whisky in Waterford’s Arcadian Series — easily their most interesting expression to date. Biodynamic: Luna 1.1 is the world’s first whisky made from Biodynamic Irish barley — meaning once again Waterford is borrowing techniques from winemaking and implementing them in whisky. Biodynamic wines are among the fastest growing segment in oenology, seeing a 700% growth in just the last four years.
You could write a book on the principles of biodynamic farming, but basically the philosophy pushes things several steps further than simple organic farming by implementing a holistic view of the land and the cosmos, considering the position of the stars and moon for when you plant and harvest.
Creating harmony between the plants and kindly treated animals is another core principle, insisting a farm creates its own organic fertilizer from the livestock instead of importing organic fertilizers. For their barley Waterford turned to a trio of local biodynamic farms in Shalvanstown, Portgloriam and Coilltroim.
The idea is to elevate beyond sustainability into what is dubbed regenerative agriculture. At its most basic, biodynamic principles aim to charge the soil with vitality and the barley grown there with a unique vibrancy — just as those biodynamic vineyards charge their grapes.
Notching a Double Gold at the New York International Spirits Competition, it appears biodynamics might have a role in unearthing the best flavors from barley. Aged for 3 years, 2 months and 1 day in a combination of 35% first-fill U.S. oak; 17% virgin US oak; 26% Premium French oak; and 22% Vin Doux Naturel oak. Only 21,000 bottles of Biodynamic: Luna are being released. $125 / 50% ABV