By Richard Thomas
For some whiskey enthusiasts, last month’s release of Redbreast Mano A Lamh conjured mixed feelings. On the one hand, the Redbreast line of pot still Irish whiskeys is widely appreciated in whiskey circles, and many think it sports some of the best Irish whiskeys in regular release. What is more, Mano A Lamh is the first expression in the line that contains 100% sherry wood-aged whiskey, whereas all the other Redbreasts are a mix of ex-Olosoro sherry and ex-bourbon aged pot still whiskeys.
Against that, Man A Lamh is a no age statement (NAS) whiskey, and there are some out there who scorn premium NAS releases, no matter their provenance. The same group overlaps with the cynical croakers who won’t like the fact that Man A Lamh is a 2,000-bottle limited edition released for members of The Stillhouse, since they often deride such things as mere marketing stunts.
I for one think its a good thing that those angry whiskey nerds are out there, as I doubt any are eligible to buy a bottle of Redbreast Mano A Lamh. That leaves more for the rest of us!
Redbreast Mano A Lamh is bottled at 46% abv, and comes packaged in the familiar Redbreast style: squat, green glass bottle; somewhat old fashioned labeling. Instead of a box, this time drinkers get a woven bag.
One thing to keep in mind about Mano A Lamh and what makes it special is that part about all-sherry cask aged. Sherry casks are three times bigger than a bourbon barrel, but the cost is out of proportion to the difference in size. The overwhelming majority of the used barrels Midleton, makers of Redbreast, imports are ex-bourbon barrels for this reason. Sherry wood represents only a tiny fraction of the total, and that is a story familiar throughout Ireland and Scotland.
In the glass, Mano A Lamh has a faintly amber look, akin to polished brass in low light, that gold with a copper tinge coloring.
The nose states the whiskey’s character quite clearly: subdued. Predominately about dark, dried fruits like figs and raisins, there are also notes of gentle spices, meadow grass and wildflowers. I’d liken it to sitting in an plum or fig orchard on a middle spring day, were it not for that hint of wood.
The flavor continues in that subdued vein, accentuated by the whiskey’s silken texture. The dark, dried fruits, mild toasty wood and smooth spices are all there in equal measure, creating a subtle, but not overtly complex tapestry. Novices and aficionados alike will find a lot to love here.
The finish starts on a dry and mildly charred aftertaste, rolling into a light, spicy afterglow that winds down quick.
Redbreast Mano A Lamh is priced at €65 ($68), and, as previously noted, is available only through The Stillhouse website. At that price, it’s a bargain. If you are a pot still whiskey or a sherry wood fan, move on this while it lasts.