“Give an Irishman lager for a month, and he’s a dead man. An Irishman is lined with copper, and the beer corrodes it. But whiskey polishes the copper and is the saving of him.” ~Mark Twain
Alright, I know what you’re going to say. Gibby’s lost his fucking mind. Everyone knows I love all things alcohol especially a really excellent glass of vino and seriously how can you go and mess with triple distilled deliciousness from the Emerald Isle…well…just like all of the excellent decisions we made in college, let’s throw them together add alcohol and see what happens. But why may you ask? Why take the chance on something this far outside the box? Because sometimes you just need to jump off the cliff and assemble the plane on the way down. I’ve lived in the land of “Fuck It” my whole life and it’s fucking beautiful here. No overly lengthy decision making times and I can order food at the speed of right now. I like to drive (somewhat) fast and take chances on everything I do in life and I know trying new things isn’t easy for some people, but I’m not them and fuck that shit. I’ll spend my life running against the wind because that’s the only way to fly, but this is exactly what Redbreast has done for nearly 120 years now. They do it their way and be damned the naysayers.
Redbreast is owned by New Midleton Distillery who was originally a small distillery owned and operated in my favorite city on the planet and home of the only beer in the world you need a fork to eat it with (if poured correctly). Don’t get me wrong or misunderstand my sarcasm because Guinness is natures candy and truthfully spectacular in and around the Dublin city proper. If you have been to Ireland and haven’t had a pint, then shame on you. Guinness is one of God’s gifts to the world and proof that not only does he love us, but he wants us to be happy. If you feel otherwise then we simply can’t be friends. Anywho…By 1861, the company had opened a branch on what is now O’Connell Street in Dublin. At the time, it was customary for distilleries to sell distillate to wine merchants or “bonders”, who had ample supplies of wooden casks through the importation of fortified wines and would mature the whiskey themselves under bond (protecting the owners from having to pay tax prior to the sale of the distillate). By the 1870s, Redbreast’s had amassed more than a quarter of a million barrels of whiskey from Dublin distilleries under bond and sold whiskey to consumers under its own private labels. These whiskeys were aged at least six years in the companies own sherry casks at its bonded warehouses on Dublin’s Harcourt Street.
By 1903, a little whiskey known as John Jameson & Sons Castle “JJ Liqueur” Whiskey 12 Year Old was marketed in a bottle of similar shape and markings to those used for subsequent bottlings of Redbreast. This whiskey was produced using distillate sourced from the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin, the home of the second best brand name whiskey in Ireland. I’m going to make a few enemies on this one but I’m sorry, Bushmills makes better juice. Just because you make more of anything doesn’t mean it’s better. I will use Coors, Budweiser and Busch as the example for beer. You could float the Queen Mary in an ocean of the stuff those three companies produce or you could float it in saline solution and I wouldn’t drink either. Not because I’m a snob, well yes actually because I’m a snob. I take pride in what I choose to drink which is more than I can say about a great number of people in the world who still think vodka is good choice. I digress…back to the golden brown nectar of the God’s. The juice distilled in 1903 on at the Bow Street Distillery was the forerunner of Redbreast, the first official mention of “Redbreast” only dates back to 1912, when the original owner Gilbey’s referred to the sale of “Redbreast” which was a nickname given by Gilbey’s chairman at the time, who happened to be an avid birdwatcher, in reference to “Robin Redbreast”. I bet all you fans of Redbreast didn’t know that little nugget of wisdom did you?
In 1968, Irish Distillers opted to phase out the supply of bonded whiskey to merchants such as Gilbey’s. This threatened the future of the whiskey brand, as Irish Distillers controlled all the whiskey distilleries in operation in Ireland at that point. However, following pleas from Gilbey’s, Irish Distillers agreed to continue to supply distillate for the production of Redbreast.
In 1971, Irish Distillers closed all its Dublin distilleries (including Bow Street) and consolidated production at the New Midleton Distillery and a purpose-built facility in County Cork (see attached picture above). As a result, production of Redbreast whiskey moved from Dublin to Cork where it remains today after several years of absence in the late 80’s due to the sale and subsequent relaunch of the brand as a standalone 12 year aged Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey in 1991.
Redbreast Lustau Edition (Sherry Finish):
Getting to the whiskey of the hour: The Lustau Edition of Redbreast sounds weird on paper as it is a sherry matured Irish Pot Still Malt that is then finished in sherry casks. Redbreast Lustau Edition, 46% ABV, aged for 9 to 12 years in traditional bourbon and sherry casks before being finished for one year in first fill sherry barrels seasoned with Bodegas Lustau sherry and it’s also non-chill filtered* (see the definition below). When it is broken down it makes sense, it is finished in a very fresh first fill sherry cask. The initial maturation adds the oak and wood notes well the finishing adds the sweet sherry and dark notes.
The color of this whiskey is almost the same as the label which is kind of a Texas orange/burnt sienna color with fantastic legs a cloudy quality to its appearance due to it’s non-chill filtration.
Shortbread biscuits, raspberries, blood orange, nutmeg, malt, sweet sherry, milk chocolate, vanilla. This one smells like my grandmothers kitchen around Thanksgiving. Baked goods everywhere and they all smell fantastic.
More malt (shocker), buttery and smooth, thick and sweet with sherry coming in layers along with citrus fruit, chocolate, sweet red licorice, baking spices (nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, apple pie spice.
Medium long finish with the sweetness of the sherry layered over an oaky tannic woodiness with a fruit tang on the back end. I would almost liken it to my mom’s famous strawberry rhubarb pie. Sweet and sour, but balanced beautifully. The sherry influence in this whiskey is apparent but I feel that it covered up a little bit of the Irish whisky soft and buttery notes that I really enjoy in a triple distilled single pot still. This is more in the category of some highland malts that are heavily sherry influenced with spice and wood tannin.
Although looking at this as an individual not as a category it is a very enjoyable whisky. The sherry influence plays nicely with the wood and some slight maltiness. Really good sipper, but this once again proves my point that it’s what is inside the bottle that matters, not the age statement, marketing budget or even the brand name. Give it a try sometime, but let me add that I couldn’t be happier to have a bottle now for The Whiskey Bunker!
*Chill filtered – This prevents the whiskey from becoming hazy when in the bottle, when served, when chilled, or when water or ice is added, as well as precluding sedimentation from occurring in the bottles. It works by reducing the temperature sufficiently so that some fatty acids, proteins and esters (created during the distillation process) precipitate out and are caught on the filter. Single malt whiskey’s are usually chilled down to 0°C, while the temperature for blended whiskey tends to be lower because they have lower levels of fatty acid. Factors affecting the chill filtering process include the temperature, number of filters used, and speed at which the whiskey is passed through the filters. The slower the process and the more filters used, the more impurities will be collected, but at increasing cost. Because this process is believed to sometimes affect the taste of the whisky, for example, by removing peat particles that contribute to the smokiness of the flavor, some distilleries pride themselves on not using this process. Another one of my favorite Scotch whisky’s Springbank adamantly refuse to chill filter their whisky because they say it negatively affects the product and considering how much I love Springbank I’m going to have to agree with them.