For many years now people have asked me what my favourite Irish whiskey is and while it may change occasionally, depending on my particular mood, the answer they usually get is "Redbreast 12 year old". I've always found myself drawn towards the Redbreast family for their superb use of sherry maturation combined with some of the finest Irish Single Pot Still whiskeys you could find.
I've attended many a tasting, sat in many bars and have even been lucky enough to taste some samples straight from the barrel, and I'm always taken aback by the wonderful flavours coming from the Redbreast whiskeys. From the smooth and creamy 12 year old to the heavy hitting cask sample of 17yo, Oloroso matured, Single Pot Still, that bordered on the meaty side of the flavour spectrum, they all have their place in the Redbreast family.
Last year we were treated to a new release in the form of the Redbreast "Mano a Lámh", a dram I've still to review, and this year those at Midleton, and The Whisky Exchange, haven't let us down, although they may have let our bank managers down.
In March 2015 Billy Leighton, master blender at Midleton Distillery, brought two Redbreast single barrel samples over to the staff at The Whisky Exchange and after hosting a tasting, with their customers, barrel #30087 was selected to be bottled and exclusively sold through the online retailer.
Cask #30087 was first crafted back in 1996, at the Antonio Paez Lobato Cooperage in Southern Spain and was subsequently toasted and seasoned with Oloroso sherry at the Paez Morilla Bodega until 1999. The cask then enjoyed a journey to Midleton where it was filled with Single Pot Still spirit and laid to rest, in warehouse M15A, until August 2015, some 16 years and 147 days later.
The whiskey was removed and bottled, without chill filtration and at a strength of 59.9% ABV, for sale through The Whisky Exchange's website. It is now found online, after being fully released a couple of months ago, at the handsome price of £180 and it's also worth noting that this is naturally a limited release with only 576 bottles being made available for sale.
I've always suggested that I would be loathe to pay such a price for any bottle of whiskey but thankfully I managed to get a small sample of this awesome sounding dram for review. As much I was looking forward to tasting the liquid I was also looking forward to seeing if this could change my mind and make me think that I'd spend such an amount on a bottle of my favourite spirit.
Onto my notes:
Nose - Rich and indulgent with intensely sweet sherry. Alcohol soaked dried fruits, deepest, darkest Christmas cake. Slight nuttiness, peppery red fruit and mixed berry compote. A little delicate note of cream appears and gives it a slight blackcurrant cheesecake feel. This is most definitely a sherry bomb and while not quite as "meaty" as the sample I mentioned earlier, it's definitely on the right track. With water the dram opens up to allow orange and apple to come through. Water also gives the fruit a distinct freshness, almost like a fruit salad, while also bringing out older notes of the wood. Impressive, very impressive.
Palate - Thick and velvety. Fantastic mouthfeel like a thick berry coulis. Nutty notes from the nose continue before moving onto intense peppery spice. The spice seems to be a gorgeous mix of wood spice and the pot still elements. You really need to "chew" through the sherry to reveal a little stewed apple, think apple and blackberry crumble. Deep stewed orange and a little vanilla cream also come through. With water the mouthfeel, naturally, thins out but it does not lose any of it's gorgeous flavours. If anything it has softened the sherry down just enough to allow the red fruits to really come into their own and it still retains a lovely dry oak spice.
Finish - Is very good with spicy red fruits lingering on and on in the mouth. Delicious. A word of warning though, in my opinion this needs only a little water. This is definitely a dram to take care with so start with very little water and work up the way if required.
Overall this is quite simply stunning. It hits all the right notes in all the right places and you could easily spend a couple of hours with one glass, just to let it open up naturally and reveal all it's hidden depths. Having previously tried, and enjoyed, the sample from the warehouse it's so good to see a general release that's in the same ballpark.
Earlier I mentioned that it would be interesting to see if this whiskey could encourage me to spend £180 and do you know what? I think it maybe just has. It really is utterly fantastic.
Until next time,