With its gorgeous Persian blue bottle and aquamarine glass stopper, you might suspect that Waterford’s Gaia 2.1 Organic Irish Whisky is using its sheer beauty to attract new customers. If looks alone were enough, Gaia would be in the running as a top contender. Thankfully, there’s much more than aesthetics alone.
Terroir-driven distilling is the new frontier of whisky; its impact is readily noted in Waterford’s most recent Gaia release. Named after the Greek Earth-Goddess to reference its use of organic barley, it qualifies as “Irish whisky” in name and production only. I don’t usually gush over a whisky, but this iteration of Gaia, version 2.1 to be precise, is a sexy beast- feminine yet firm, muscular yet supple, and as unique as it is satisfying.
This is NOT your mother’s Irish whisky. Gone is the rosewater and vanilla often attributed to the two major commercial brands, replaced by a new palette more similar to Speyside Scotch and French Cognac as to the usual array of Irish whiskies. At 50% ABV, it’s not gentle. In fact, it’s quite the firebrand, but in a graceful and sophisticated manner. Poured into my trusty Glencairn noser, the juice appears pinkish- like a pale Brut Rose without the mousse. The aromas open with baked marshmallow creme, wildflowers, malt-o-meal, cut hay, and baked bread. Swirling releases hints of brown sugar, dates, tea biscuits, and chocolate-covered orange slices.
The mouthfeel starts with a mild bite of heat and then fattens- not oily, but slightly syrupy and round. Flavors of fig juice, lemony tea, and white pepper lead to hints of chablis, marzipan-stuffed pastry, poppy filling, and vanilla bean. The swallow reveals buttered toast, fig newtons, cherry pop-tarts, straw, and hints of sweet red wine. The finish is quite long and warm.
Waterford has released a whisky that’s interesting, unusual, and unique, all in a good way. The marshmallow and fig stand out, but the overall impact is elegant and well-integrated. It would easily befit a four-course fine-dining experience as an aperitif or with a charcuterie board. What draws me to this whisky, again and again, is the intense and alluring aroma- I find myself sniffing the glass long after the whisky’s gone!