It is March, which means now is the perfect time to talk about Irish whiskey. And what better Irish whiskey to talk about than the deservedly beloved Redbreast? The first time I tried Redbreast was at a bar in Sarasota. I made the 12-year my warmup, and let’s just say it was a good indication of the quality the rest of the night would bring. I’d never even heard of Redbreast until a scotch-loving friend urged me to try it the next chance I got. Since then, the only reason I haven’t added several Redbreast bottles to my collection is budget/income restraints.
Coming back to the whiskey itself, Redbreast is (according to their site) “the largest selling Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey in the world,” made with a combination of malted and unmalted barley and produced at the ubiquitous Midleton Distillery. The whiskey is matured in ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Redbreast’s website goes into a decent bit of detail explaining the process, which I highly encourage you check out here. For now though, let’s dissect the whiskey.
Nose: Gentle and fruity with waxy, unroasted nuts. Lots of caramel, orange blossom honey, and vanilla with dates and prunes performing backup duty. Some apricot lurking behind the more dominant aromas. Buttery walnut and fruit pancakes with a side of golden raisins and graham cracker. A light but well integrated wood note wraps everything together.
Palate: Gentle and easygoing, yet silky and syrupy. Rich and buttery shortbread with vanilla, pancake syrup, honey, nut butter, and various fruits. Soft, perfectly mellow combination of apricot, golden raisins, and slightly toasted oak join the fray. Sponge cake with a fruity, honey drizzle. Both the mouthfeel and delivery of flavors are smooth, but in a way that feels perfectly finessed rather than boring.
Finish: Age begins to reveal itself. Slightest touch of oak tannins barely masked by honey toast, pecans, as well as more dates and, to a lesser extent, apricot. Fairly lengthy, considering the low proof.
Redbreast doesn’t just strike a chord with me, it strikes me like I’m being played a beautiful song. I rarely come across whiskeys that deliver such a rich, elegant, and fulfilling experience, at 80 proof nonetheless. Yet Redbreast 12 does and it pulls this off in a way that other whiskeys could learn from. What always wins me over is how buttery the whiskey feels and tastes. Calling it smooth wouldn’t be inaccurate, but that would also be just one part of the equation. As much as I tend to prefer higher proof whiskey, Redbreast 12 showcases just how much can be accomplished at the bare minimum proof. This is something that all whiskey fans, whether they’re beginners or connoisseurs, are almost guaranteed to enjoy.
The only potential knock I could pit against Redbreast 12 is on the terms of value, and even that’s reaching a bit. Bottles typically retail for $70 in my area, whereas some regions can get it for under $50. Let it be known that if I could get Redbreast for that low of a price, I’d have the half the mind to bring my whiskey exploration to a screeching halt. At $70, however, I become more contemplative with my purchases. Is it still a fair price for such a great whiskey? Absolutely. Redbreast more than earns a constant spot in my collection thanks to everything I’ve already mentioned. I just won’t indulge myself with it quite as often as I’d like.