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

Binary Assimilation by Leah Hewson
The Art of The Cuvée
May 25, 2021 | ELEMENT: life, spirit, water | editorial | 10 minute read

Many months ago we began a discussion about an image. It was to be an artwork unlike any other seen on a bottle of whisky. This artwork didn’t need to be merely “inspired by” or something off the shelf and reverse-engineered to fit the bill. We needed more.

We also needed to find someone who could interpret a rather unusual concept that underpinned a special whisky: starting with component Waterford single malts – each with its own terroir-defined flavour character, each one a standalone Waterford single malt in its own right, each with its own flavour definition. Then assembling them together, to build layer upon layer of flavour, of terroirs – so that the the whole would become greater than simply the sum of its parts: The Cuvée.

This will be our definitive Waterford Whisky, a key milestone on our journey: our lodestar.

So it was important that the label on the bottle – that first point of contact for most drinkers – communicated the madness, the eccentricity, the colour, the vibrancy, the multifaceted, multi-layered feel of a unique spirit itself. To be full of the life that we believe is brought about by laying individual Single Farm Origins together.

We needed an artwork unlike any other – for a whisky unlike any other.

Artist studio
Leah in the studio

One young artist’s work came into focus – one of Ireland’s leading visual artists, Leah Hewson.

We spoke to her about the project, and she was up for the challenge to interpret The Cuvée, the concept, the philosophies and the people behind it.

A little more about Leah for those of you unfamiliar with the contemporary art scene: she has a First-Class BA(Hons) degree in Fine Art from IADT, has accomplished four solo exhibitions – the most notable of these were ‘Ammo Veil’ at The Hillsboro Fine Art gallery in July 2018 and ‘Scintilla’ at The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin in February 2017. She has spent residences at the Royal Hibernian Academy School (2017), the NARS Foundation in Brooklyn New York in 2018, SIM Residency in Berlin in 2019 and Wilton Park Studios Residency, Dublin in 2019/2020.

Winner of the Whyte’s Award for painting at the 190th RHA Annual Exhibition, Leah’s work continues to be internationally collected by private collectors across the globe, with public collections including The Trinity College Dublin History of Art collection, The Office of Public Works, Dublin, The Law Society of Ireland, and the Microsoft Collection. More recently was the commissioning of ‘Abiding Traces’, by IPut, a 8 x 27 metre-piece that was exhibited on Sir John Rogersons Quay from May 2019 to August 2020. Leah was also in the group exhibition ‘Assemble’ at Atelier Maser in August 2020.

Accolades aside, there was something about Leah’s work that just felt very appropriate for The Cuvée – and we were rather intrigued to see what Leah would make of our rather eccentric and obsessive way of producing our definitive single malt whisky.

A happy coincidence that she was a whisky drinker too.

Artist studio

There’s only so much one can really achieve on Zoom in the creative world, so Leah visited the Cathedral of Barley – our terroir enabler, home to our component Single Farm Origin barley – explored the Facilitator, delved into our warehouse at Ballygarran alongside Head Distiller Ned. All of this was to get an appreciation, a feel, for our terroir-driven concept; that it was far more than just a nice-sounding philosophy on paper, but a combination of real world ingenuity, feats of engineering and logistical madness to make a philosophy – to make The Cuvée, our lodestar – a practical reality.

She returned after many months back with the artwork titled Binary Assimilation, which you can see pictured throughout the page. Here’s Leah’s statement on the final piece.

‘Binary Assimilation’, Acrylic and lacquer on Canvas, 50 x 70cm. 

“Two computer generated images that are depicted in paint have been divided into strips and unified into a single impalpable counterpart. Opaque and transparent stripes in red and green are over laid to create further filtering, ambiguity and illusion. These colours together produce vibration and are commonly used to create three-dimensional effects; Red, the colour of energy, passion and action. Green, the colour of balance and growth.  Meanwhile, a mischievous neon squiggle skips across the middle in a playful manner to create the bold and bright focal point that heightens the senses. ‘Binary Assimilation’ celebrates the many layers and complexities within the distillation process and subsequently the immense sensory experience of the whisky. It is a response to both the natural and manmade processes of distillation and the progressive approach that Waterford Distillery strives for.”

Leah Hewson

Leah’s final artwork, Binary Assimilation, will be exhibited on bottles of The Cuvée – the definitive Waterford Whisky – this September onwards in a spirits retailer near you.

Binary Assimilation, Leah Hewson


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