Thursday, July 28, 2011

An Emblematic Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey: Redbreast 12 Year Old Whiskey Review:

“Redbreast is the secret restaurant tucked away in the back of the strip mall that only a handful of people know about. The atmosphere is great and the food divine, but no one is sure that they should tell other people about it because either it’ll become too crowded (and thus will be impossible to get a table) or the increased production by the staff in the back will affect the overall quality of the place.” – Kate Hopkins in 99 Drams of Whiskey

I’m always amazed with Redbreast 12 year old. The simple fact is that over time our palates change; we can’t do anything about it. We begin to gravitate towards certain brands and move away from others. At least this is how it has been for me. Currently I have been drinking more bourbon than anything else, so when the time came to retaste Redbreast 12 I was a bit worried how I would take it. Would it stand the test of time, holding the place on the shelf as the “whiskey which started it all” for me? The answer is yes. Passing with flying colors I actually enjoyed this more than ever.

Awarded the 2011 “Irish Whiskey of the Year” award and given a 96 rating by Malt Advocate, Redbreast 12 is a whiskey which truly shines. But before I go on, what is Irish whiskey anyway? How does it set itself apart from its Scottish brethren to the east? Generally, for starters, Irish whiskey is triple distilled and Scotch whisky is distilled twice. But the character which develops from both processes can vary significantly, so one can only talk of twice/triple distilled with a grain of salt. The more significant factor in distinguishing Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky is the fact that Irish whiskey (traditionally) was pure pot still whiskey. The pure pot still process is one of producing whiskey in copper pot stills from malted and unmalted barley. In the olden days pure pot still whiskey was simply called Irish whiskey – now that has changed over the years since the larger distilleries (Jamison’s and Bushmills) have come along and made things nice and smooth for everyone, partially taking away the pot still process, and thus taking away some of the complexity. But Jameson, Power’s, Midleton Very Rare, and other Irish whiskey brands do contain portions of pot still whiskey, providing tasters with a unique Irish experience. 

Redbreast 12 is a complete (100%) pure pot still whiskey. And apart from Greenspot, it is the only pure pot still whiskey widely available in the United States. Produced at the New Midleton Distillery by the Irish Distillers, Redbreast has a 12 year version and, only recently released in the United States, a 15 year old version. But from what I have heard Redbreast 12, with its more traditional pot still notes, outmatches the 15.   

Redbreast 12 Year Old Review:

Price: Around 39.99 for a 750ml bottle.

Packaging/Labeling: Beautiful green bottle with a lovely cap cover. The label almost borders on cheesy with the perforated edges, but that is only a small complaint.

***Packaging/Labeling Update: Not a huge deal, but Redbreast just changed its label (at least within the last few months) which uses a similar design but higher quality material. Much more ascetically pleasing.

Alcohol Content: 40% alcohol by volume, 80 proof.

Color: Pale Gold.

Nose: Young and green. Creamy and silky notes. Strong notes of bitter honey and bitter brown sugar. Not heavy jack fruit as I've seen in 100 malted barley whiskey. Some of the character borders on rye.

Tasting: This is a polished whiskey with loads of complexity. There is a green bitterness with a sweet disposition. The sweetness matches golden raisins which is then superseded by a salty spiciness. Nougat and strains of cookie dough. Brazilian nuts, Kiwi fruit and vain of tobacco-ed oak and ginger. The spice is extremely long lasting which develops into a liquorish creaminess left on the finish.

Conclusion: I was surprised by some fairly popular blogs labeling this whiskey as Speyside in nature, which honestly makes little sense, not to mention the same blogs going onto say that Redbreast was not on par with the complex rich Speyside single malts... What?! Not only is this trying to compare apples and oranges, yes, fruit none-the-less, but it simply goes against what many are saying and it goes against the extremely different processes that make up Irish and Scotch spirits. It needs to be understand that this is an extremely unique whiskey, which holds a different style and character of its own. As classic an Irish whiskey one can buy, this is a very highly recommended whiskey because of its complexity - just don't put this in a cocktail, it deserves its own glass.

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