I'm not sure how I feel about all this 'barely legal' whiskey hitting the market. Every other day there appears to be an inaugural release from a new distillery with a young whiskey that tastes of next to nothing. It all feels a little rushed and, I hate to say, boring. But..., but but but, there's always an exception to the rule. I've not had the Raasay young'n but it looks very tasty and there's a few others which are worth a sip to be sure. And The Waterford Gaia 1.1 is one of them. yes it is.
To be fair I wasn't expecting too much from this. Like others of a similar age I've tended to see them more as mementos of a special moment in time rather than an actual, drinkable product but this is.
On the nose, oof! what a wallop of vanilla and custard and fruitiness and syrups and LOADS or barley. This is porridge and custard. All mixed together with a squeeeeeze of fruit syrup. This is breakfast. Warm gristiness, bready notes. The wood from the sweet wine barrels is there making it feel like sunlight is shining on it. I'm a little taken aback. I was expecting something far more woody and stark and something far nearer to new make, than this. It's very creamy on the nose too. Some sort of slightly aromatic spice, a handful of sage leaves, a little earth and a little citrus peel. I like it. The lesson, never prejudge something.
So, in the mouth. Thick, custard and vanilla are right up front, it really coats the mouth, the creaminess in the nose translates directly to the palate. Spiced custard all over a warm porridge. A teaspoon of apricot jam is in there somewhere, the fruitiness is really nice. The sweet french wine barrels are apparent but not dominant. I am loving the custard. Custard, who doesn't love custard? This is comfort food merged with booze and bottled with sunshine. It's light but full and that mouthfeel is excellent, it really does blanket the tongue. There's a slight building of citrus notes in the mix, some old barley sugar sweets (haven't had any of those in a long time!) and little brittle toffee and stale chocolate. Marzipan - I was never a fan, maybe more frangipani, either way there that in the mid palate and I actually quite like it, sweet almond paste. Mmm. Spicy on the swallow. Well. Bloody Hell. That was pretty good. The finish isn't huge, but how could it be? But it is full and creamy. It kind of holds onto the porridge notes and it goes out sweetly, no bitter notes. A creamy, honeyed, dryish finish. Ginger and wood spice. I just want to keep sipping this.
So, it;s pretty good. Way better than I was expecting. This is going to be pretty spectacular in years to come as long as the barrels don't swamp the character. This sunny, sweet porridge is delightful. I want to get another at 5yo or 8yo and then see how it's going. I get the feeling that this is going to be one of those whiskies that will help rewrite the Irish whiskey landscape in years to come.