Thursday, March 3, 2016

Review - Redbreast Single Cask

This new whiskey from Redbreast is the first ever single barrel expression to be released by the award-winning Irish brand. Cask number 30087 is an ex-Oloroso sherry butt that was filled at Midleton in 1999 and the cask has yielded just 576 bottles. It was selected by Billy Leighton, Head Blender at Midleton, and staff of retailer The Whisky Exchange and will be on sale exclusively through them.  Redbreast is a single pot still whiskey, which means that both malted and unmalted barley are used as ingredients and distilled in copper pot stills.  This style of whiskey was revered in the 18th and 19th centuries.  They aided the global rise in popularity of Irish whiskey and are now making a pronounced comeback.

Redbreast is produced at the Midleton distillery in Co. Cork, southern Ireland.  The Old Midleton distillery started production in 1825. but Midleton as we know it today was founded in 1975 following the joining of the Cork Distillers Company, John Jameson & Son and John Power & Son in the late 1960s. This group, named Irish Distillers Group, built a new distillery next to the old one - this is now the largest in Ireland with an annual capacity of 19 million litres and is currently owned by Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard.

Did you know?
The first documention of Redbreast as a brand came in 1912 when an advertising poster for Redbreast JJ Liqueur appeared.  It is believed the name refers to the robin redbreast bird and was a nickname given to the brand by the Chairman of the W & A Gilbey whiskey company.  He was a keen bird watcher and it was said to be his favourite bird.  The JJ refers to John Jameson & Son, who worked in partnership with Gilbeys and produced the whiskey in Dublin.  Other rumours include that it was named after the bright red colour of the whiskey, which resembled the colour of the robin's breast.

The Redbreast Single Cask has been bottled at the natural cask strength of 59.9% ABV, is non chill-filtered and of natural colour.  It will cost £180 per bottle and can only be purchased from specialist retailer The Whisky Exchange.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep amber and the nose is a feisty mix of sweet and spicy aromas.  There are plenty of dark dried fruits - think of raisins, dates and figs - plus molasses, hazelnut praline and milk chocolate.  There are punchy wood spice aromas in tandom, especially cinnamon and cedarwood. Background dried mango, black treacle and a hint of sulphur add further intensity.

On the palate, this whiskey feels equally as intense.  The high ABV seems to intensify the flavours but unlike some high strength whiskies, it carries it well.  Initially there is a defined sweetness but a bittersweet edge is never far away.  Imagine a combination of raisins, dates, black treacle, butterscotch, coffee grounds and milk chocolate. 

Then further notes of green walnuts, hazelnuts, peach and toasted cereals come through.  The result is an expressive and complex whisky.  The final element is the increasingly heavy wood spices with the cinnamon and cedarwood from the nose accentuated by hints of cloves, white pepper and ginger.  The finish is very long, warming and woody once the sweetness and fruitiness fade.

The addition of water softens the alcohol and wood spices as expected.  The result is that it feels creamier and sweeter notes become more prominent, especially butterscotch and some burnt caramel.  The nuttiness becomes more reminiscent of praline.

What's the verdict? 
We have long been fans of Redbreast - it was one of the first Irish whiskeys that we ever tried and purchased - so we were very interested to try this new single cask offering.  We are pleased to report that it is a beauty and those that chose this particular cask have done very well. 

The whiskey does show a heavy influence from the sherry cask but the balance between the sweet, bitter and spicy notes is very good.  This will surely sell fast given the limited number of bottles and reputation of the brand, so we recommend hurrying if you would like one.

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