Saturday, March 7, 2020

Review - Redbreast 27 years old



This whiskey is the newest addition to the core range of the multi award-winning Redbreast single pot still range. It is the oldest to appear under the brand's name and the first to feature the inclusion of whiskey matured in ex-Ruby Port casks. This whiskey is not 100% ex-Port cask matured, nor finished in them, but 'enriched with' as the label so poetically puts it.

In reality the ex-Port casks form a component part of the final product alongside Redbreast's signature first-fill ex-Oloroso sherry casks and some first-fill and re-fill ex-bourbon barrels. All components have been matured for a minimum of 27 years with the oldest being 31 years of age. They have then been married together by Billy Leighton, the Master Blender for Redbreast.


"Irish Distillers first sourced Port wine casks from Portugal in the late 1980s and we have taken between 40-70 each year since. These are initially seasoned with red wine to remove undesirable tannins, before being filled with Port for us. Once emptied, the casks are then sent to Ireland where we fill them with Midleton single pot still whiskey. Then we wait patiently ..." 
Billy Leighton speaking at the launch.


The first documention of Redbreast as a brand came in 1912 with a poster for Redbreast JJ Liqueur. The name refers to the robin and was a nickname given to the whiskey by the Chairman of the W & A Gilbey whiskey company, who was a keen bird watcher. The brand is currently owned by Irish Distillers and is produced at the Midleton distillery in Co. Cork. This 27 years old joins age statements at 12, 15 and 21 years of age, plus 12 years old Cask Strength and Lustau Edition, in the core range.

The Redbreast 27 years old is bottled at the natural cask strength of 54.6% ABV and is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. It will initially be available in 11 selected markets including Ireland and the UK. A bottle will cost €499/ £435/ $565 US.

Our tasting notes
The whisky is deep copper in colour and the nose is incredibly clean and vibrant. Rich and sweet aromas, such as caramel and vanilla, mingle with plenty of dried fruits (think of raisins, sultanas, figs and apricots) and a layer of fresh exotic fruits (imagine pineapple, mango, tangerine and blood orange). Additional aromas of dessicated coconut, cinnamon, walnut and charred oak add depth.

On the palate this whiskey has a rich and viscous feel. There is a distinct spicy vs. juicy thing going on. Intense baking spices (think of cinnamon, nutmeg, all-spice and clove) and a pinch of white pepper combine with fresh fruit pulp and flesh notes - this includes dark plums, black cherries, pomegranate, damsons and red grapes. The conveyor belt of flavours keep coming in the form of expressive notes such as apricot jam and marmalade, along with some caramel and dried fruits (raisins and figs in particular). Then hints of walnut, bitter almond skins and dessicated coconut.

While delicious at its natural strength, the high ABV suggests adding a splash of water. Now the whiskey exhibits an extraordinary fragrance that can best be described as 'exotic fruit bowl'. The spices and warming elements are knocked back and it feels softer and creamier on the palate. A toffee-like characteristic is prominent and a late drop of orange oil creates further complexity.

What's the verdict?
The entire Redbreast range is highly regarded and we have always enjoyed them. However, this new 27 years old feels like the cherry on the cake and rightly sits at the pinnacle of the brand. It is so viscous, dense and fruity but with so much depth, complexity and bite. Both neat and with some water it drinks very nicely.

It can be easy to get blasé about old whiskeys but they should always be put in context. Think about it -what were you doing 27 years ago? Thankfully Irish Distillers had started sourcing ex-Port casks so that we can now enjoy this fabulous whiskey.


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