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Is The Cuvée still a single malt?
The short answer is: yes
March 28, 2022 | ELEMENT: spirit, water | editorial | 10 minute read

A question we’re occasionally asked by curious drinkers is: “is your Cuvée really a single malt, rather than a blended whisky?”

The short answer is: yes.

A ‘single malt whisky’, by definition, is something made entirely from malted barley, distilled in pot stills at a single distillery.

A ‘blended malt whisky’ would be one made entirely from malted barley, but blended using whiskies from a number of different distilleries.

A ‘blended whisky’, by contrast, is something made from other grains as well as malted barley, distilled in both pot and column stills at various different distilleries before being blended together.

Our Cuvée is entirely the first of those. One distillery. 100% malted barley. A single malt.

Which usually leads to the follow up question: “then why all this talk of ‘layering’, ‘marrying’ and – yes – ‘blending’?”

A very good question. To answer it, let’s talk French wine.

We are unashamedly inspired by the practices and the language used in the making of the great French wines.

Our investigation of the barley terroirs of Ireland, our quest to uncover whisky’s most natural flavours, comes directly from the centuries of work that French grape growers and winemakers have put into investigating the great terroirs and vineyards of France, and from them creating some of the most profound wines that the world has ever known.



Our Single Farm Origin whiskies, for instance, take influence from the great single vineyards – the Crus – of Alsace and Burgundy. One farm, one exceptional terroir, allowed to shine as a solo act, revealing its unique idiosyncrasies – what our Terroir Specialist, Angelita, describes as the ‘fingerprint’ of that individual place – perhaps heightened through the use of alternative agricultural practices such as Organic or Biodynamic farming.

The Cuvée, however, is a bit different, and here we look towards the best châteaux of Bordeaux, and the finest houses of Champagne.

In Bordeaux, rather than creating their Grand Vins as one single wine from one single vineyard and grape variety, the elite châteaux will separately vinify and mature individual vineyards and varieties each vintage, effectively creating a host of individual wines. All the same château – Latour, for instance, or Lafite-Rothschild – but made to be constituent parts, rather than sold as separate bottlings.

The winemaker will then taste those many individual creations before carefully selecting chosen barrels to layer – or blend – together into one more complex, harmonious creation. The Grand Vin. The Cuvée. It isn’t done to recipe, it isn’t the same every year. They allow themselves to be led by the vintage; more of one variety or vineyard in one year, perhaps, less in another. But the cuvée is always the most complete expression of that individual château.



An even closer comparison to our approach to The Cuvée comes from the Champagne house of Krug.

There, an unparalleled range of wines are made and matured from right across the great vineyards of Champagne, and from an enormous spread of vintages, before being brought together as the Grande Cuvée.

In their own words it is their “most generous expression of Champagne. Re-created every year, beyond the notion of vintage and is a blend of over 120 individual wines from more than 10 different years. The fullness or flavours and aromas achieved by this careful art of blending would be impossible to express with the wines of a single year.”

Which brings us back to how we make The Cuvée at Waterford. Separately harvesting, distilling and maturing barley from different farms – each one a Waterford single malt whisky in its own right, yet each one markedly different according to its terroir and vintage – gives us the greatest possible array of flavours for our Head Distiller Ned to work with.

If we simply threw all the barley together before distillation, or even mixed the resultant distillates before we had matured them in casks, the palette from which Ned can draw would be reduced a hundred-fold. Our approach, more laborious, more time consuming, certainly much more expensive and inefficient, is what gives Ned his unparalleled library of flavour.

It is from that library that Ned creates The Cuvée. Individual Waterford single malt whiskies from individual farms, terroirs and vintages layered into the most complex, harmonious whisky we can make.

A single malt whisky, certainly. A singular malt as well.



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