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Are you curious about the origins of Whisky's natural flavour?

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Are you legally old enough
(and sufficiently curious)
to enjoy terroir-driven whisky?

Two terroirs, both alike in dignity, in County Wexford where we lay our scene.

We can leave the literary references there, probably. Let’s talk about Robert Milne’s Ballymorgan and Martin Foley’s Hook Head.

They’re two farms you may be familiar with; both have appeared as Single Farm Origin bottlings, indeed Ballymorgan has featured twice.

Both are tucked in that most fertile of Irish barley counties, County Wexford, and both are farmed using conventional agricultural methods.

But there the similarities end.

It would be hard to find two such different terroirs – to the point that it’s difficult to believe the two share the same county.

HOOK HEAD FARM
BALLYMORGAN FARM

Hook Head sits on the heavy, limestone-rich Elton Series, unique in this county; more common in Kilkenny and Laois, to the north, now known to produce oily, earthy spirit with herbs and dried fruits. Ballymorgan, by contrast, is on the loamy clay Clonroche Series typical of Wexford, from which we find a toastier, clove-scented spirit.

HOOK HEAD SOIL
BALLYMORGAN SOIL

Then there’s the location. Hook Head is right on the coast, sprayed with seasalt and thrashed with wind. It’s just far west enough along the coast for its weather to be influenced more by the Atlantic than by the Irish Sea; when Martin calls the weather “powerful”, he means it. Shallow soil perches on the top of high bedrock – step off the low cliff and you can literally see the layers. We’re on the lowest, flattest land imaginable too; no farm that we work with is closer to sea level.

Ballymorgan, on the other hand, is very much an inland terroir. Sited right in the north of the county it sits perfectly in the rain shadow of the Wicklow Mountains, this is one of our driest, sunniest terroirs of all. The soils are rich, deep and far higher altitude than Hook Head’s – indeed this year Robert has planted his highest fields of all.

This year, by coincidence, both Robert and Martin have sown their fields with the same barley variety – Laureate. Farming using the same seed and the same variety, the only variable here is terroir, and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to show you tangibly how the place influences the growth – and by extension the flavour of a crop.

So we’ll be following Hook Head and Ballymorgan across a series of articles throughout 2022 as the farms undergo their growing year.

In common with the rest of the county, both farms were late to get their seed in the ground, delayed by low temperatures and heavy rain in late February and early March. Ballymorgan finally sowed on the 21st March, whilst Hook was three days later on the 24th.

HOOK HEAD BARLEY
BALLYMORGAN BARLEY

They benefitted from a fortnight of excellent weather though, as you’d expect, Ballymorgan saw the better of that, and had drier ground than Hook Head when the seed went in. Temperatures were low, but not at the dangerous levels caused by the Beast from the East in 2018, when the barley crop really suffered in terms of yield as a result.

Seed sown, time for terroir and vintage to work their magic. We’ll be back to both farms in a couple of months to see how the growing year is progressing – and just how starkly the differences in terroir are manifesting themselves.

MARTIN FOLEY, HOOK HEAD
ROBERT MILNE, BALLYMORGAN

EDITORIAL