On Saturday 20th May 2017 Redbreast Irish Whiskey treated 100 fans to a very special tasting to coincide with the celebration of World Whisky Day.
The tasting was a sample of single pot still Irish whiskey drawn from a cask chosen by Midleton master blender Billy Leighton as his "Dream Cask".
Prior to the tasting nothing was given away, even when the selected tasters received their tasting sets all they had to go on was an unmarked 100 ml bottle filled with the mysterious whiskey. It was clear we would just have to wait for the event itself.
The method in which the tasting would be conducted would also be unique as Redbreast decided they would stream the tasting live via Facebook from warehouse A1 in the grounds of Midleton itself, thus making the event accessible to everyone across the globe, albeit without the magical whiskey.
Commenting prior to the event Billy Leighton explained the reason behind his selection by stating: “I’ve poured over our maturing casks at Midleton and have drawn a special expression of Redbreast that demonstrates the character of the family and reinforces single pot still whiskey as the quintessential style of whiskey from Ireland. I’m looking forward to leading the tasting with Dave and slowly revealing the secrets of this mysterious whiskey on Facebook LIVE – it promises to be unmissable experience, as my dream Redbreast cask will never be tasted like this again.”
On the night in question I made sure to have my sample ready and laptop fully charged to take part in this event and at 7pm BST the Redbreast Facebook page sprang into life with the live stream being hosted by Billy Leighton and Dave McCabe.
As the stream got going we didn't have to wait too long to find out exactly what it was we would be tasting and the revelation was astounding to say the least.
What we had in our hands was a 31yo single pot still Irish whiskey that was distilled in October 1985. It had spent 25 years in an ex-bourbon cask before being re-casked in 2011 into an ex-sherry cask.
The natural cask strength was 46.7% ABV and if you are really interested the cask number was 41207.
Excited would not even cover exactly what I was feeling as this was going to be the oldest Irish whiskey I had ever tasted since sampling some 28yo Redbreast at a tasting at Whiskey Live, Dublin a few years ago.
As I listened on intently it soon became clear that this sample of 31yo whiskey was essentially the same as that 28yo I had tried previously only with 3 years extra maturation under it's belt.
When Redbreast 21yo was first launched in 2014 it was known to contain whiskey of up to 28 years of age. This 31yo sample was from the same batch that would have first been used to create the Redbreast 21yo. I hope that explains things ok.
It was now time to delve into the whiskey and it did not disappoint.
Onto my notes:
Nose - Rich, deep and creamy with vanilla. Gentle pot still pepper spice. Red toffee apples with the red berry fruits still extremely vibrant. Naturally with time it became darker with full Christmas cake flavours, raisins, fig rolls, stewed berries and a little hint of something tropical. Stewed oranges were also present and with time a distinct note of ginger snap started to appear.
Palate - Just as rich as the nose yet deliciously smooth. Ripe banana, blackcurrant jam and further pot still spice. The liquid fills the mouth and brings a glorious lip smacking dryness but in no way have the casks overpowered the spirit. You almost have to chew through this one. With time some notes of dusty old leather backed books started to appear giving a true sense of the age. Simply stunning.
Finish - Long and lingering with red apple, dark berry and delicious warming spices.
Overall, words can not accurately describe how good this whiskey is. It truly is in a league of it's own.
The flavours come at you layer upon layer with each one playing it's own part and working in total harmony with the next. It is a whiskey you would need a few months with before you could even begin to really get to know it.
Towards the end of the tasting a question was raised asking what would happen with the rest of the contents of the barrel that this sample had been drawn from and it was suggested to put pressure on the powers that be at Midleton to maybe get this released as a single cask release.
I can tell you one thing, if this ever gets released as a single cask bottling the price will be astronomical but it will also sell out in hours, if not minutes.
My advice to everyone is start saving now, hope the time comes that this is released as a single cask bottling and then get in line with your fingers crossed.
I would also like to touch on the tasting again and say that in my opinion this was a huge success. The tasting was interactive and enjoyable and I certainly hope Redbreast continue to host these Facebook Live tastings, maybe next time they could stretch it out even longer to maybe an hour or so.
This is an excellent way for them to connect with fans all over the world and continue to raise the profile of Irish whiskey in a way that is fun, entertaining and engaging while also allowing people the rare opportunity to ask a Midleton master the question they've always wanted answered.
Lastly I would like to thank Redbreast for the chance to take part in this once in a lifetime tasting that I'll remember for many years to come.
Until next time,