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Waterford Distillery distils first biodynamic Irish whiskey

Mark Reynier’s Waterford Distillery has created the first biodynamic Irish whiskey, though the spirit won’t be available to purchase for several years.

Mark Reynier (far right) with biodynamic barley growers in Alsace, France

The distillery has been working closely on the project with Minch Maltsters, and sourced 50 tonnes of biodynamic barley from three farms, grown by John McDonnell, Co Meath; Alan Mooney, Kilcock, Co Kildare; and Trevor Harris from Naas, Co Kildare. Waterford Distillery has been awarded Demeter certification from the Biodynamic Association.

Biodynamic agriculture was first outlined in 1924 by Austrian philosopher Dr Rudolph Steiner, and involves a farm becoming self-sufficient for all its needs, relying on homemade organic fertilisers and naturally occurring plant insecticides.

To prepare the biodynamic manure, high-quality cow manure is put into cow horns and buried under the earth throughout the winter months.

The benefits of biodynamic ‘Horn Manure’ are said to include its ability to stimulate soil microbial activity and the production of humus; regulation of the pH balance of the soil; stimulating seed germination and root development; and helping to dissolve minerals, even in deep layers, while counteracting excessive salt levels.

The manure is also diluted with water and sprayed on the crops twice a year, generally in spring and autumn before the greatest period of biological activity in the soil begins.

Biodynamic techniques, such as these, are more common in the wine industry, and used by producers including Domaine Zind Humbrecht, Romanée Conti and Château Margaux.

Reynier, Waterford Distillery CEO, said: “Biodynamics is a farming philosophy, a way of life. It’s fascinating to see the world’s greatest wine makers attracted to this time-consuming way of running their farms.

“It started with the fear of losing the accumulated knowledge of millennia to the march of the agrochemical industry last century. It’s about minimal treatments, ancient homeopathic remedies, natural fertilisers focused on enhancing the biodiversity of a naturally healthy soil.

“It all sounds pretty crazy, it’s easy to dismiss as cranky tree-hugging bunkum, but yet it’s funny how the greatest wines in the world are made under this unusual regime. Only natural we should give it a go for our whisky.”

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