Waterford Distillery turns to heritage barley

Waterford Distillery has produced its first 10,000 litres of spirit made from a heritage malting barley that has not been available to the industry for 40 years.

Hunter barley, named after Herbert Hunter who was once in charge of barley breeding at the Cereal Station in county Cork, was a cross between Spratt Archer barley and Kenia barley, with the idea being to create a crop that could better withstand the Irish weather.

Introduced in 1959 by 1966 it already accounted for 75% of Irish barley bought for malting purposes.

Despite being extremely successful, Hunter was last used just 20 years later in 1979 when it was replaced by Ark Royal and Triumph varieties which had a higher yield and were more fungal resistant.

As such Hunter has not been available in commercial quantities to either the brewing or distilling industries until now.

It has been missed by many however as it was considered to be more flavoursome than the strains that superseded it.

Head Brewer Neil Conway said: “Contrary to what much of the industry is telling drinkers, flavour starts with the grain and the terroir in which it’s grown. Hunter is an old favourite, a very successful variety, so much so that it dominated for 20 years.

“That’s why we’re working with Minch Malt and our growers – we’re on the hunt for profound sources of flavour, even if that means going back decades to find these forgotten treasures. What’s more, we’re producing these heritage spirits on as large a scale as possible, rather than a barrel here or there, so as many whisky drinkers as possible have a chance to follow our journey.”

Waterford also announced it has further plans to find and use heritage barley for future projects.

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