By Richard Thomas
On the premium end of spectrum, it’s single pot still whiskey that leads the surging revival of Irish whiskey, with Redbreast standing as the major brand. So, it was with great interest among devotees of pot still whiskey, or whiskey made from a mixed mash of malted and unmalted barley in (you guessed it) pot stills, when Irish Distillers announced a single cask expression of Redbreast was coming out. As sauce for the goose, that single cask was a sherry butt.
This whiskey was created in cooperation with The Whisky Exchange, who are the exclusive retailer for it. They worked with Midleton’s Master Blender Billy Leighton to round down candidate casks to a workable set, and then held an in-house tasting. The 1999 sherry butt (15 years old) chosen by the participants became this first-ever Redbreast single cask, with a yield of 576 bottles, and the late February release was well-timed to make it the hot St. Patrick’s Day 2016 whiskey.
In the glass, the coloring is a deep red amber, but The Whisky Exchange admits coloring was added to the whiskey. So, although very pleasant to look at, the appearance cannot really be taken as suggestive of anything.
The nose, however, is very suggestive. The mere pour itself released a massive sherry bomb into the air. The scent is heavy and rich, carrying a deep pouch of dates, figs and plums. It’s a buttery aroma, butterscotchy in fact, laden with spices and sweet with honey. Rounding things out is a current of hoary wood.
On the palate, it’s the hot spices—cinnamon, cloves, peppermint, ginger—that predominate, but a layer of fruity dried cherries, raisins and currants lies underneath. Leathery old wood notes rise up at the end, and the texture is thick and velvety throughout.
I found the finish continued off that aged wood, and was even just a touch charred. The whiskey sits warmly in your middle, perfect if March is roaring like a lion for you right now.
This Redbreast Single Cask promised to be a sherry bomb, and it delivered, although I was surprised by just how spicy the whiskey was on my tongue. I thought it was just a bit too spicy in fact, and a bit out of balance, but that sometimes happens with spirits that are as big, bold, and full of character as this one is.
£180, no more and no less, and only at The Whisky Exchange.