Tour (10:00 on 14/09/2018)
There is no visitor centre or formal tour operation at Waterford Distillery and walk up visitors will be turned away; tours are strictly by appointment only as they are conducted by members of the distillery operations team.
The distillery is located on the riverbanks of the River Sui with parking available in front of the distillery on a pay and display basis.
The tour takes you round the old The Strangeman‘s Brewery, which still contain all of the old brewery equipment, before moving onto a tour of the distillery which is located in the moden brewery building built by Diageo i 204.
The old brewery is interesting to see, especally if you've visited modern breweries; there are long term plans to bring the old brewery back into operation as part of a visitor centre (I'd love to see it all back in operation).
Waterford are not set up with a visitor centre for the distillery yet, and this was mentioned a few times along with long term plans to do so, but the tour done is very good and does include some features which would not be out of place in a visitor centre.
When you enter the distillery you'll be stood next to some very professional displays showing the process of whiskey making starting from what happens on the farm. I was surprised, afer my visit to Ballykeefe, to hear biodynamics mentioned a second time. You'll also hear about the influence of terroir, which is a big thing for Waterford Distillery. They know the provenance of all ingredients from the seed used, pesticides and fertilisers used on all of the farms from which they source barley and can trace this through from grain to glass.
In part of the tour, I got to nose samples of new make spirit from three different farms; it was surprising how different the three were even to me (I don't have a great sense of smell). As part of the influence of terroir everything is tracked and grain from each farm is always kept separate from malting thoruhg mashing, fermentation, distillation and aging. This gives the distillery maximum flexibility to get the taste they want when bottling.
The distillery is a modern computerised one with a central control room from where everything can be managed; all of the process is computerised, except for making the cut of spirit in the spirit safe which is done manually to only take the best of the heart of the spirit run.
I was told several times during the tour that they don't have a distillery tour and aren't really set up for tours, yet the tour was one of the best I've been. This is partly because the man who did the tour, Ned, actually works in the production side of the distillery and talks not only from a position of knowledge, but also enthusiasm. Thought has gone into the tour as there are some very good displays around the process and boards above the stills showing which farms were used in which year.
I intend to return to Ireland in two or three years and I'm interested in seeing what Waterford have done between my visits. They aren't owned by a huge copration like Diageo or Beam Suntory, so won't have the funds available that they do, but the underlying biodynamic and terroir is fascinating.
Photoography was allowed everywhere in the distillery.