By Richard Thomas
Just as Jameson is priming the pump of the Irish whiskey resurgence (Jameson accounts for 78% of all Irish whiskey sales in the U.S.), stablemate Redbreast is carrying the standard for the revival of single pot still whiskey. Within that category, sherry cask aged whiskeys play a key role. Stock drawn from sherry butts are a vital contributor to the standard Redbreast expressions, such as the flagship 12 Year Old, but they were front and center in last year’s Nano A Lamh release and this year’s The Whiskey Exchange exclusive 1999 vintage single cask (that cask being a sherry butt) release.
Master Blender Billy Leighton loves what he can milk from a sherry butt, but after two sherry-forward releases in a row, he decided it was time to dial back on that particular influence, but not to abandon it altogether. There was also a desire among Leighton and his colleagues at New Midleton to put the spotlight on their relationship with their sherry bodegas in Jerez, Spain, an industry they feel is taken for granted by the larger whisk(e)y industry.
The result of those two intentions is Redbreast Lustau, a new, permanent addition to the Redbreast line. The whiskey is drawn from ex-bourbon barrel and ex-sherry cask pot still stock, blended, finished in first-fill sherry butts from Bodega Lustau for a full year, and bottled at 46% ABV with no color added. This is an NAS whiskey, but I was told by Irish Distillers sources that the stock used ranges between 9 and 12 years old, plus one year for the finishing period.
To head off some of the paranoia that afflicts certain whiskey circles, Redbreast Lustau is not replacing Redbreast 12 Year Old. It’s also not leaving the market anytime soon. The first batch used 50 sherry casks for finishing, and considering the minimal angel’s share, that would be just slightly less than 25,000 liters of whiskey to go around!
The liquid has the pale gold coloring of a rich white wine in the glass. The nose presents a light profile of the spicy honey of pot still whiskey with a current of toasty oak and a layer of prunes and figs on the top.
The palate mirrors the construction of the nose. First and foremost a whiskey of velvety sweetness, it’s well-rounded with a prickly spiciness and a plank of toasted oak. The spicy end rises up to coat the mouth and segue into the finish, which while light, just runs on and on.
Redbreast fans should appreciate Lustau’s virtues, and substitute buying it for buying Redbreast 12 every so often. It’s not better in any clear way, but it’s different enough to stand out as a tasty twist on pot still whiskey.
Expect to pay about €65 in Europe and £55 in the UK. Redbreast Lustau will launch in the U.S. come October, and there it will fetch $69.