Redbreast 12-year-old Irish Whiskey
D epending on what rag, website, advertisement, or label you read, it seems every whiskey under the sun has a gold medal/ribbon from some festival or contest. It reminds me of these politically correct, make-you-feel-good schools we have nowadays, where every kid who tries out makes the team and is a winner and gets a trophy. I rarely put stock in whiskeys that advertise all the medals they have won at different competitions and tasting events. Of course there are some whiskeys out there that have won medals that were deserved, but not near as many as you read about. I do, however, put a great deal of stock into industry insiders’ opinions, like the late Michael Jackson, and to some extent, Jim Murray. I don’t always agree with their tasting notes (everybody’s palette is different), but they rarely steer you wrong when they both rate a whiskey as “great.” Which gets me to my point: they both have given Redbreast 9 points on a 10-point scale. With that kind of endorsement, in my book, this should be a “gold medal” whiskey. Let’s see.
Irish whiskey is not much different than Scotch, from a process and ingredient standpoint. They are both made from barley that has been germinated, then dried to stop the process, then on to typical distillation. The difference is that the barley used in Irish whiskey is typically dried with hot air to stop germination, and Scotch (in most cases) is dried with different levels of smoke from burning peat, which gives you that classic smoky taste you get in Scotch. To me, Irish whiskey is typically a bit softer and tends to have a little more sweetness to it.
I’ve had this bottle for a couple of years, and like a lot of the bottles that end up in the back of the cabinet, it has been neglected lately; so I thought I would give it some long overdue attention. I take my time with this whiskey just because there seems to be so much going on. The nose on this is pleasantly complex and makes you think you’re in for a treat; it turns your thoughts to more questions than answers. The first thing I take in on the nose is that it’s very refined and delicate, with licorice candy, brown sugar, and warm fruit cake. When you take the first sip, you know that your nose has not misled you; it’s very delicate, extremely smooth, with a very soft, warming feel. The candy nose turns to a smooth spiciness, a little wood, and hint of fruit with a very loooooooong semi-dry finish. I poured a second and let it breathe for a while and added a few drops of water, after having the first one neat. Letting it breathe for a few minutes and adding the water opened it up and brought the flavors to the surface and made it much better than the first.
Redbreast for me is a bit of a paradox. It’s something I love to drink, but I’m not always sure why. At the end of the day, this is a fine whiskey and certainly recommended, and a bargain at $47.00. It’s best enjoyed after dinner, by itself or with a warm dessert. If you haven’t tried Irish whiskey before, this would be a good one to start with. Be careful though — it might spoil you from any others that follow. If you’ve had Irish before, but not Redbreast, you’re missing out on a great Irish. I think I will leave this one toward the front of the cabinet just so it isn’t neglected any longer.
Age: 12 years
Purchased: Harvard’s in Aiken
Comments: Irish whiskey is often overshadowed by its cousin Scotch. This is a whiskey that most any good scotch would find itself in good company.