...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NOT Single Malt Report: Redbreast 12yr Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Label: Redbreast
Style: Single Pot Still
Age: 12 years
Maturation: Oloroso sherry casks
Country: Ireland
Alcohol by Volume: 40%

Irish whiskey, with an 'e', is distilled three times.  Scotch whisky, without the 'e', is distilled twice (except for a few bottlings).  The additional distillations smooth out the flavor and texture considerably which is why many folks take to Jamesons faster than to Johnnie Walker.  Until very recently, the malts used for Irish whiskies were never peated, thus they never had the salty smokiness of most Scotches.

The Irish whiskies you see in stores are blends: Jamesons, Powers, Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, Paddy, Michael Collins, etc.  If no age is listed then they're usually aged around three years and are a mix of malts and grains.

With the demand for Scotch swelling all over the international market, the Irish whiskey producers have risen to catch up and compete.  Irish single malts are easing onto the scene.  Accessibly to aged blends, 10 years and up, from all the labels is increasing.

Then there is Single (or Pure) Pot Still whiskey, a style and process unique to Ireland.  Irish blends are a mix of malts from pot stills and grains from column stills.  Single pot still whiskey doesn't include the column still grain spirits, but just the malted and unmalted barley spirits from pot stills.  Because it's a mix of malts, it can't be officially labelled "Single Malt", so it was given the "Single Pot Still" designation to keep it unique.

The pot still process was how Irish whiskey had been made for over 200 years before the column stills came along and allowed for mass production.  This old school pot still process is a little more expensive, a little more time consuming, but produces a devine product.  Here's a link to more specifics in case I have totally confused you.

Redbreast was one of the only pot still brands to survive throughout the years.  Only very recently have their products made it to the States.  They have a 12yr, 12yr cask strength (not in US yet), and a 15yr.

I bought a bottle of the 12 year for my birthday having never tried a sip.  It wasn't that much of a gamble because, despite all of these single malt reports, I have consumed more Whiskey than Whisky in this life.  And I've never had an Irish whiskey that I didn't like.

The bottle went very quickly.  I almost forgot to do a proper tasting...

The color is a mix of golds, pale through deep.  Lighter at the bottom of the glass, darker at the top.  The nose is full of musty molasses, sometimes peach, sometimes apple, and something ocean coastal.  A creamy texture.  And the flavor.  Delicious.  I'll try to be more specific: clean, fresh, oak, and vanilla.  And the finish is smooth vanilla with stamina.

This is one of the greatest things that has ever sat in my glass.  I've never hit it with water or ice because there's something already balanced and beautiful about it.

If you're a newbie to Irish whiskey, I'd recommend giving a couple of the blends a try first -- Jamesons, Powers, Paddy, Tullamore Dew -- to see if they're your cup of spirit.  They're available everywhere and are half the price of the aged blends, single malts, or pot stills.  If you like them, then you will love this.  And if you don't love this, please feel free to send me the rest of your bottle.

Pricing - Bargain! at $35-$45
Rating - 94  (Also, see more detailed tasting notes here.) [Ed. note: This score seems very high, even considering my Irish whiskey bias. I'll be reviewing it again in 2017 just to make sure.]


  1. Okay, there's something I want to get off my chest. I used Redbreast 12 in an Irish Coffee and it was magnificent. Of course neat in a Glencairn is the best way to drink this but that day I wanted an Irish coffee and this was the only Irish whiskey in my cabinet.

    1. Actually that sounds fantastic. If their marketing department ever wants to try to expand the brand to less experienced whiskey drinkers, they should definitely pitch that.

    2. It worked out well actually. Redbreast has enough flavor that it doesn't get masked by the coffee.

      By the way, any plans to review the Cask Strength or 15?

    3. Absolutely to both. Currently working my way through a bottle of the Cask Strength. Well not exactly "currently", as I try to stay away from a whisky breakfast on a work morning -- tempting as that may be.

    4. I actually need to get a new bottle of the 15. I purchased a bottle when it first showed up on US shelves and a year later Pernod Ricard decided to update the packaging meaning my bottle and box have the old labeling (which I liked better). So I might as well hold on to it as a minor curiosity in the collection.

    5. That's cool! I like that old label too. I wonder if they've changed recipe's ratio of ex-bourbon to ex-oloroso or it's remained the same.

    6. As far as I can tell, Redbreast is still the same recipe. Often a new label doesn't mean changing the liquid inside.

      By the way, it's interesting to note that pure pot still (because I like the old name) is also triple-distilled because those unique flavor notes don't appear in the second distillation so the third distillation brings out the character.

    7. Yeah, Midleton really has that third distillation down right. Would love to see if any of Scotland's distilleries can match it someday.