March 16, 2011
Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day! I’ll be toasting the emerald isles with Redbreast – that gem of traditional Irish single pot still whiskey.
Redbreast is the 100% pure (single) pot still whiskey made by Irish Distillers Ltd. (IDL) at the “New” Midleton distillery. At the same distillery, the company’s other brown spirits, Jameson and Powers (both blends of grain whiskey with pot still whiskey) are produced using the same stills (three column and four pot stills). A smattering of other whiskeys are made here as well, including (by contract) Green Spot and Tullamore Dew. In fact, as my brother-in-law likes to put it – Jameson is basically watered-down Redbreast (that is, ‘diluted’ with grain whiskey).
Irish single pot still whiskey is similar in ethos to single-malt whisky. While the mashbill contains both unmalted and malted barley (usually in a ratio of 60 to 40), unlike single malt, the combination of both is distilled in traditional copper pot stills, which introduce a lot of character into the spirit (whereas stainless-steel column stills yield light, vodka-like grain spirit with little natural character). This yields a complex whiskey with a distinct oily, full mouthfeel. This “greasy” style of body is present in spades in Redbreast, but is difficult to discern (for me) in the blends containing only 40% pot still whiskey, such as Jameson and Powers. Redbreast will always have a spot on my shelf – not just because of the myriad awards it wins, but because its unique character and reasonable price point fit perfectly into my rotation of regulars.
Nose: A shock of greasy toffee and bacon fat, a hint of industrial solvent. Lots of spicy dried coconut and white pepper. Right out of the bottle, the young grain component (unmalted barley) is a little too sharp – a few minutes undisturbed in the glass will mellow this. Water dulls the nose… Don’t do it!
Palate: That pot-still greasiness and chewy mouth coating fullness is delectable. Lots of sweet brown sugar or molasses, root beer, and marshmallow. More dried coconut, some black licorice. Water only thins the body.
Finish: Very long and drenched in coconut, mixed dried herbs, and lavender. Later the coconut degrades into an impure cane sugar bitterness. Best to wash this away with more Redbreast!
Redbreast 12 is a must-try for that unique toothy quality. It’s a must-have because this level of quality just isn’t available at this price in competing single malts. Don’t bother with the water – you’ll only mess with the mouthfeel. Enjoy it as-is.