Redbreast - the king of pot still whiskey?

It's a new year, and what other way is there to celebrate it other than to finally start this blog? I meant to start writing right away after our trip to Ireland in August, but the autumn has been crazy busy, and I had to leave it aside for a while. Now I'm ready to get started, and I spent a lot of time to think about what is a good way to start a new blog, so instead I'll just kick off, by writing about the wonderful Redbreast range from the Midleton distillery. I'm crazy about single pot still whiskey and I'm happy to now see other distilleries and future distilleries finding interest in making single pot still!

Since I started exploring Irish whiskeys, I've found so many great drams, but my favourites are always pot still whiskeys, or blends with pot still components that shine through. From the Redbreast, in the past I had only tasted the 15-year-old, that we used for the first whiskey tasting I led, but during 2017 I tasted quite a few of them - the 12-year-old cask strength, the Lustau edition, the all-sherry edition, and finally the 21-year-old.

About Redbreast

Apparently, Redbreast is the most best-selling pot still whiskey in the world. It started its existence in the late 1800s, when John Jameson & son's distillery in Dublin collaborated with Gilbey's wine & spirit, whiskey bonders that marketed Jameson's whiskey. Gilbey's were importers of wine, and had a good selection of sherry casks, that they used for whiskey maturation. The casks were sent to the Jameson distillery, filled with fine qualtiy whiskey, and then sent back to Gilbey's for maturation. The brand name, Redbreast, is said to be attributed to the chairman of Gilbey's, who had a large interest in birds. The Jameson distillery in Dublin closed in 1971 and the Redbreast brand nearly disappeared but was revived by the Irish distillers company in 1991.

Redbreast 12 years, cask strength edition

I haven't tasted the regular 12-year-old Redbreast yet, but I tasted the cask strength edition in Dublin in April 2017. A very nice dram, I really like how the higher alcohol content adds flavour and oily texture to most cask strength whiskeys. This one is bottled at 58,6% ABV and matured in especially selected ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry butts.

Nose
Intense sweet spiciness with an earthy feel, along with fruit, grass, and malt scents.

Palate
Very strong and intense character. Oily feel. Sweet and peppery at the beginning, then smooth creamy feel with a bit of vanilla and lots of dark fruits. A wee bit of bitterness with a peppery finish. With a drop of water added, the alcohol burn disappears a little, vanilla scents take over, and all flavours increase. Soft and creamy despite the high alcohol content, with a long peppery finish. Very nice indeed and definitely one of the winners of the Redbreast whiskeys.

Redbreast 15 years

The first Redbreast whiskey I tasted was the 15-year-old, a nice whiskey that was limited edition to begin with but it's now added to the regular range. A very nice whiskey, matured in first-fill sherry butts and ex-bourbon casks, and is bottled at 46% ABV.

Nose
Spicy with lots of wood and dark fruits.

Palate
Nice wood character with dark fruits, citrus fruits, pepper and a very nice sweetness and smoothness. Nice oily feel - actually this whiskey was the one that made me realise that a whiskey can be "creamy". Spicy finish.

Redbreast 21 years

I tasted this whiskey for the first time in August 2017 in Dublin, and fell in love. I loved the "warehouse" feel to it, the type of woody damp characters I think come with most well matured whiskeys, but along with all the smoothness and spiciness of a classic pot still whiskey.

Nose
Fresh fruit, both dark fruits and citrus, and wood. With a drop of water added, the wood takes over.

Palate
A feel of old damp warehouse. Oak, classic pot still spices, dark fruit. Strong spicy sweet finish. With a few drops of water added, vanilla enters the room and the flavours become more intense, with a softer smoother feel. A fantastic, long, spicy and woody finish.

This really is a fantastic dram if you like lots of flavour and whiskey that has taken a lot of character from the wood. I really like how this whiskey gives the "old damp warehouse" feel. It lacks some of the fudge-like sweetness that I've found in other pot still whiskeys but I like how the oak mixes into the other flavours here without taking over too much.

Redbreast Lustau edition

This whiskey is matured in ex-bourbon casks and sherry butts for 9-12 years but then finished in a special Oloroso sherry cask - from Bodegas Lustau - for a year. This has, as far as I know, been added to the regular Redbreast range.

Nose
Grass, oak, nuts, malt, dark fruits, pot still spices. Very sweet. With a drop of water, vanilla and sweetness take over.

Palate
Very spicy. Lots of wood and sweetness, nice creamy feel. Rich sherry flavours with a nice long spicy finish. A nice complex whiskey lots of things happening.

What else?

So what do I have left from the Redbreast range? I tasted the all sherry edition at the Malt Lane in Kinsale, I remember I didn't like it very much, it was too dry and had less sweetness than the other Redbreasts. I don't remember if this was the cask strength or not, but I don't think so. However, it would be interesting to taste it again.

Also, I haven't tasted the ordinary 12-year-old, which I definitely will try to do as soon as possible, either I'll buy a bottle or I'll wait until we go back to Ireland in March.

Redbreast overall is a very nice selection of whiskeys, and something you definitely will have to try. Pot stil whiskey is so much smoother, but still very powerful in flavour, than most blended whiskeys, although Irish blended is top class.

Source of Redbreast facts: redbreastwhiskey.com and irishwhiskey.com. All tasting notes are my own.