Redbreast

Review: Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
Ex-bourbon casks andoloroso sherry casks; bordeaux wine finish
Recipe
Malted and Unmalted Barley
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

This is like our familiar (and quite good) Green Spot, but finished for up to 2 years in Leoville Barton bordeaux casks.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L622331248 09:53

  • Bottling Date: August 2016

A very nice nose. White pepper, light fruit, spicy oak, and a nice grassy finish. Some nice oxidized wine notes, too – the wine is really well integrated into the nose, and it works really well. Apple oatmeal, dense oak, clove, red pepper jelly, and a light dustiness. The palate has a good kick of pot still character, spice, and a great integration of wine! A bit soapy, spicy, fruity – with a growing and rich finish. It really does work well – the finish is spicy and loaded with dried fruit.

A big step up from Green Spot, which is a nice whisky itself. Green Spot is a relatively light whisky, with a focus on lighter, sweeter notes – but still with a oily pot still character. This, however – it’s bigger, more earthy, complex, and interesting – really a bit “darker”. The 46% helps a lot, too.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. This is a really nice whisky, so it’s “worth” buying at 100$, but you can do better for the price.


Review: Redbreast Pure Pot Still 12 Year Old Irish Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
12 yrs; Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon Casks
Recipe
Malted and Unmalted Barley
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

This is an Irish pot still whiskey, which means it is made from both malted and unmalted barley - and one of my favorite Irish whiskies. It is distilled at Midleton distillery in County Cork, Ireland. It is aged for 12 years, mostly in Oloroso sherry casks but partially in bourbon casks as well. The first official reference to this brand was in August of 1912, so it’s been around for quite some time. The name, redbreast, refers to a robin. It was likely named by the chairman of Gilbeys, an Irish liquor merchant that managed the brand, who loved birds.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Some nice vanilla comes through, alongside some milk chocolate, dulce de leche, maple, charred oak, honey, dried apricot, strawberries, sweet stewed apples, mango, and still with the distinct pure pot still character…all harmoniously balanced. There’s also some beetroot, contributing a wonderful earthiness as well. Some leather emerges over time as well. A wonderful nose!

Taste: There’s a slightly grassy pot still character, apples, with wonderful underlying sweetness. This is delicious, with a brilliant light and smooth mouthfeel – it’s not extremely thick but it wonderfully coats the mouth. There’s some oak and vanilla in the background which leads right into the slightly spicy finish with a light touch of dried fruit. Lots of caramel and toffee as well…very elegant.

Finish: oaky, with an underlying caramel sweetness and a bit of earthiness. It’s quite light, with some nice vanilla notes, and lingers for some time. There is also some maltiness in the finish, and some charred oak.

This is a whisky full of wonderful balance, complexity, and depth. And, it’s very delicous… very easy to just keep drinking the stuff. It starts off as very enjoyable, and it doesn’t get any worse – this is a highly acclaimed whisky and it lives up to the bill.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $75.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L430931228 10:56

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Lots of bourbon on this nose, at first! Quite complex, and a bit sweet, with spice, wood, apple, sherry, creamy oak, and some solid grassiness. It is a nice contrast of creamy wood, apple, and drier sherry and oak. Dry wood and banana cream pie come through at the end. Lots going on, well integrated, and quite lovely. Compared to the batch tasted above it’s cleaner, more creamy and buttery, but less earthy and complex, with a bit more sweetness and vanilla and oak compared to the more malty and slightly heavier character of the other. Both fantastic whiskies though.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $75.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Loads of fruit, rich, spice, and fruit. Some nice orchard fruit – and the oak is terrific – it is dense and rich. Interesting marine notes – not sure why I find this with some Midleton products – dried seashells, lighter dried fish (not too fishy), and sea salt. The palate is spicy, fruity, balanced, and a bit tannic – loads of flavour in here, with the fruits leading into oak and spiciness – eventually to a tingly, spicy, oily finish with orchard fruit, vanilla,  white pepper, and citrus pith. Big for 40%.

This doesn’t have the complexity or vibrancy of the past two batches, but it’s still very good.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Could be higher if this particular batch was a bit better - this one is still good but not as good as the other two I’ve reviewed above - but still quite a good buy for 70$.


Review: Redbreast Lustau Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Redbreast Lustau.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
10-13 yrs
Recipe
Malted and Unmalted Barley
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

It is no secret that I love the Redbreast lineup, as a huge fan of the 12, 12 Cask Strength, and the 15, and 21. This is an impressive whisky – matured for over a year in a sherry cask – not like the typical short finishes of 32 months just to infuse the barrel juice – this actually gets some influence from the underlying oak. Oloroso sherry from Bodegas Lustau – Redbreast always has a bit of a sherry influence but the point of this whisky is to bring those notes to the forefront.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L622131243 14:36

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The nose is full of sherry, yet still holding those earthy, grassy, and creamy Redbreast characteristics. Brown sugar, rancio, figs, walnuts, chestnuts, vanilla, apple chips, and old oak. Sharp and spicy too. The finish is deeply controlling, and yet this does not stray from the family style – it is firmly Redbreast. Brilliant. As it sits, the sherry comes a bit more under control and the malt and oak lead more heavily.

The palate leads with a creamy, slightly spicy body before dried fruits, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg assert themselves to the forefront and then slowly fade away into a finish of rancio, creamy malt, toffee, cinnamon, and apples. Very well put together. A bigger redbreast than the 12 and 15, and complex and well integrated – but perhaps the least elegant of them all – but that, perhaps, is not the point of this firm whisky.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $90.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L810931132 08:54 19/04/18

  • Bottling Date: 2018

I don’t feel like I need to do a full review, but I wanted to revisit this dram. In particular, it’s motivated by a visit to the Midleton distillery where most of the pot still Irish whisky in the world is produced. I visited both Midleton distillery and the Jameson experience in Dublin, where I got to try my hand at blending pot still distillate. What I found, interestingly, was the pot still was a bit less robust than I assumed, and I struggled to get a nice balance between the sherry and pot still. It is remarkable – the balance between the pot still and the sherry in the dram – with the bright fruitiness and oily spiciness of the pot still distillate with the dried fruit, rancio, and spice of the sherry casks employed. It’s about perfectly balanced here, and I love it. Remarkable production and blending – try this dram, but you may need to be accustomed to Redbreast 12 and 15 to properly appreciate this.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This batch just so beautifully balances oak, sherry, and pot still. Amazing.

Value: High. Arguably, it could be viewed as the top of “average” but I really like this stuff and it is a good buy, unless you don’t like sherried whiskies!


On the impressive Midleton Distillery (Jameson) by Jason Hambrey

IMG_1360.JPG

I recently visited the Midleton distillery in Co. Cork, Ireland – remarkable. On the site is a lot of old heritage, including the largest pot still in the world, which at one time could consume 4 tons of coal in 24 hours. It sits now, idle – beside a modern, sleek looking industrial distillery which alone produces nearly all the pure pot still whisky in Ireland (and has the only mature pure pot still stock). Midleton is home to brands Jameson, Redbreast, Green/Yellow Spot, Powers, and for now is still contract distilling for whiskies such as Paddy’s and Tullamore Dew – they also supply the grain whiskies in the bushmills blends.

Irish whisky has one of the most interesting whisky histories, starting with, as many believe, the invention of whisky. Eventually it grew to be the most popular spirit in the world amidst some severe ups and downs. In the 19th century, Dublin was the distilling powerhouse of the world, home to the “big 4” – Powers, John Jameson, George Roe, and William Jameson – but were hit by the Irish and English trade war, prohibition/temperance movements (in the US, particularly – one of their main markets) and bans on distilling grain during the wars.

To survive, distillers banded together – first the distilleries of William Jameson and George Roe (at the time perhaps the largest distillery in the world) along with the Jones road distilling company in 1891. Eventually even this coalition, with a whopping production capacity, didn’t survive. Distilleries continued to collapse until the 1960s, when the remaining distillers banded together: Cork distillers with their Paddy brand, Powers, and John Jameson. This turned into what is now the new Midleton distillery – to which all the brandsmigrated in 1975. In Midleton, it had easier access to grain (being further from Guinness and in an agricultural areas. At that time, in all of Ireland, there were only 2 distilleries left standing – Midleton in the south and Bushmills in the North. At the time, they were owned by the same company.

Today, as far as I can tell from my (somewhat brief) internet research, Ireland is number 5 in the world in whisky production, behind Scotland, USA, Canada, and Japan. Irish whiskey is the fastest growing segment of spirits, and has been each of the last 10 years. The other remarkable feat is that most of all of Irish whiskey is the Jameson brand (some sources say around 90%). The Midleton distillery has about 1.5 million barrels maturing (a bit bigger than Crown Royal, and a bit smaller than Hiram Walker, Jim Beam, and Jack Daniel’s).

They have some really interesting whiskies, particularly in their method and madness range - I tasted a chestnut cask finish! A few unique observations about the distillery:

  • they typically use their casks 3 fills only, before shipping them to become casks for other products, like Havana Club rum.
  • If you see casks in the warehouse, you’ll see neatly stamped original barrel markings – Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, etc. – which is remarkable since they export barrels in whole rather than breaking them down, as typical.
  • They try to import their sherry casks in the winter so it is cooler and there is a lower chance of infection.

I was able to taste a few barrel samples in a blending class. Pure pot still is the best style they make, clearly – but despite its spicy and oily might, it is delicate and can't easily be thrown around in a big cask (it comes off the still at 84%). They produce grain whisky from corn imported from France – after 4 years in a second fill bourbon barrel, it is light, piney, citrusy and spicy (I expect the first fill might have been pot still) but still creamy and sweet. The finish is quite spicy. Very reminiscent of Jameson, and most of the rough character of Jameson comes from here. Compared to corn whiskies from Canada I’ve tasted out of ex-bourbon barrels, it’s broadly similar with the pine and citrus notes, but this stuff is sweeter and less fruity or grainy, maybe a touch spicier.

They produce four styles of pure pot still – triple pot distilled whiskey made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley – a light, two medium, and a heavy body style. In a sherry cask after 8 years, a sample I tasted of the pure pot still was swamped by sherry – both the wine and the French oak. The pure pot still is delicate – tasting the 8 year sample made me impressed even more with how well they were able to get Redbreast Lustau to work in balancing so well the sherry and French oak with the pot still. Perhaps my sample was a lighter pot still style, but I was surprised at how much the cask dominated (I would say 2/3 cask, 1/3 spirit). The star of the show is the ex-bourbon pot still style (think Green Spot). It is rich, creamy, and spicy – with the bourbon enhancing the creaminess of the pot still while adding complementary herbaceousness and dried fruit. It is brilliant stuff – it’s no wonder they import so many bourbon casks compared to sherry casks.

I hadn’t tasted Distiller’s Safe, Blender’s Dog, or Cooper’s Croze either – which I was lead through at the distillery. They are good whiskies that won’t blow you away, but I’m impressed with what the brand decided to do – a whisky focused on distillate (Distiller’s Safe), a whisky focused on wood (Cooper’s Croze), and a whisky focused on blending (Blender’s Dog). It’s a nice way to explore the distillate at Midleton.

Also, to toot my Canadian horn – the more I learn of other distillate styles, the more I’m impressed with Canadian product as being so diverse in natural flavour: diverse stills (column, pot, hybrid), grain (corn, wheat, barley, triticale, rye – and all malted and/or unmalted), casks (refill, bourbon, sherry, port, rum, cognac, new and more), and different yeasts and fermentation regimes different yeast strains and fermentation regimes. And some big distilleries. Too bad Canada hasn’t talked about itself enough so people actually know what’s out here. And too bad a number of micro-distillers in Canada still only want to replicate Scotch rather than speak with a more Canadian voice….

Review: Yellow Spot 12 Years Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Yellow Spot 2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Ex-bourbon, Ex-oloroso, and Ex-malaga casks
Recipe
Malted and Unmalted Barley
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

Another independent Irish whiskey bottling from the producers of Green Spot, matured in ex-bourbon, ex-orloso, and ex-malaga (a sweet fortified wine made from pedro-ximinez and moscatel grapes, originating in the town of Malaga). It took its time coming to North America, coming in 2015 - but it was orignally a 12 y.o. product of Mitchell and sons (along with an 8 y.o. blue spot, a 10 y.o. green spot - the current version is now 7-10 yrs old, and a 15 y.o. green spot) which dropped off the shelves in the 1960s and came back with the increasing popularity of Irish whiskey.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L710131139 08:55

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Woody and complex on the nose – loads of spices and a terrific, rich, barley character to it. An earthy character, dried apricots, prunes – terrific nose. Oak, star anise, oily, green grass, vanilla, caramel, red fruits...The palate is lightly oaky, with custard, dried fruit, and nutmeg and clove on the slightly drying finish. The mouthfeel is just terrific – mouthcoating and oily.

Definitely more cask driven than Green Spot, but it works really well. A very different whiskey – I like it a tad less, yet I’d pay more for it (does that make sense to anyone? It’s in a style that tends to be more expensive) - but my preference depends on the day.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $100.


Review: Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Green Spot.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
75% Ex-bourbon casks, 25% oloroso sherry casks
Recipe
Malted and Unmalted Barley
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

A lot of Irish whiskey is bottled by independent bottlers, and this is one. The name, Green Spot, comes from the tradition of painting casks of different ages different colours in the Mitchell family, the company who still produces the brand. The Mitchell family started in 1805, sourcing the whiskey from the Jameson distillery (Midleton) - but only made its way to North America in 2014.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L719231278 16:42 11/07/17

  • Bottling Date: 2017

What a nose! Vanilla, green pear, limestone, ripe yellow apples, peaches, green grass, white pepper. What a nice pot still character. Rich and oily. Loads of apple juice on the palate – still very fruit forward, spicy, herbal, and oily. Honeydew, sunflower seeds, too. The finish has rich, earthy barley with a bag of mixed spices, almost with a chilli heat to it and spicy cinnamon. Still lots of nice oils, sunflower seeds, and green apple, pear, and peach.

I’ve had this a few times in the past, but reviewing it formally has been a revelation. Just a terrific whiskey – complex, interesting, a great background or foreground sipper, with a great finish and wonderful pot still character.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $86.


Review: Redbreast 21 Year Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Redbreast 15.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
21 yrs
Recipe
Malted and Unmalted Barley
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

When this first came out (2013 if I’m not mistaken) – it was one of the most desirable bottles in all of whisky to try. I love the redbreast line, being a big fan of the 12, 12 Cask Strength, and the 15 – so another extension, older, and bottled at 46% made me interest. On top of that, many reviewers who I trust rated it very highly – Whisky Advocate with a 96, among others – it received the 2nd perfect score in the Ultimate Beverage Competition. I don’t usually trust the „medals” of competitions – but those at the very top certainly do achieve something. So, I splurged when I found this in the US after it just came out, but now it is more of a regular release – recently appearing in Canada this last year. Let’s see how it held up to expection. At the time, the oldest single pot still whisky ever released, with some whiskies as old as 25 years going into this first batch (now there’s a 25 year old redbreast)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L32423156 12:04

  • Bottling Date: 2013

The nose smells old, but is still surprisingly bright. Very oaky, and spicy alongside that – like the spices from French oak you encounter in a spicy, woody cognac. Dried citrus (lemon, orange, grapefruit), rich and rooty earth, dried hibiscus petals, dried mango, a good dose of dried peach, currant, clove, vanilla, dried ginger and yet bright notes as of gooseberry, red grape, dried hibiscus flower. Yet with all this I still don’t have a handle on the nose.

The mouth has brilliant texture. Here the oily, sweet and grassy profile of the pot still comes through brilliantly. And we have citrus, dried fruit, oak, vanilla, dried mango, star anise, and still lots of peach. Brilliant grain character too, with spices and oak creeping up and battling the peach as the finish starts to unfold. It’s oaky, but not as oaky as expected after that nose. The finish has peach, oak, clove, cinnamon, vanilla, and some green tea. Just brilliant!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low (Based on $250).


Review: Redbreast 15 Year Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Redbreast 15.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
15 yrs; Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon Casks
Recipe
Malted and Unmalted Barley
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

Initially a one-off release in 2005 in France, this has now been made part of the core range from redbreast due to its popularity. Another pure pot still whiskey, this time bottled non-chill filtered and at 46% rather than its 40% younger brother (though the 12 cask strength is also non-chill filtered).


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L528931223 15:15 16/10/15

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Very rich, oily, and creamy. It’s something I didn’t use to like as much in whisky – but I now quite like, and can’t get enough of. Banana cream pie, green apple, dried apricot, some brilliant barley, strawberries, pear, and the oak makes a good showing as well. Beautiful mouthfeel, with a balance between the apple, oak, banana, and oily barley. On top – it’s fruity and spicy, but underneath, succulent and creamy. Terrific balance. The finish is spicy, with light tannins – but still quite creamy with more banana cream pie and pot still character, alongside almonds, tannins, and vanilla pudding. Redbreast is one of my favorite whisk(e)y brands, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The oiliness is brought out better than my recollection of the 12 year old, and I certainly like that.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $60.


Review: Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Redbreast 12 CS 2.jpg
ABV
~58% (varies)
Aging
12 yrs; Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon Casks
Recipe
Malted and Unmalted Barley
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

This whiskey is a cask strength and non-chill filtered version of our terrific standard 12 year old. It is extremely well received across the board, and has been very well received by the Ontario consumers (including me!) who got a crack at this earlier in the year when it came to the LCBO.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: B1/13 (59.9%)

  • Bottling Code: L310731095 13:02

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Oak, that comes off as a bit musty. Green apple, creamy vanilla, hay, honey, dried apricot, a touch of sherry, and lots of nuts – the nose is a bit dense at cask strength, but it does well even watered down to 40%. Lots of apple seeds too. The palate shows a whole lot of grassy barley, supplemented with a lot of creaminess and vanilla. A bit tangy, also, on the palate, with some tannins that pull at you. Surprising, the amount of oak here, after not showing a whole lot directly in the standard 12 year old. The finish is full and creamy, with lots of green apple and oaky vanilla. I’m not sure that I would immediately think – redbreast 12 YO, but at cask strength – if I picked this up, though of course there’s no doubt it’s in the same family. I don’t think I’ve ever had a cask strength whisky which is so creamy as this – it is quite the effect, between the creaminess, the spice, the fruit, and the oak. Terrific whisky.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $110.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: B1/15 (57.4%)

  • Bottling Code: L506331036 12:24

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Oak comes off first – this one is a bit softer than the 2013 version, and woodier. Vanilla, red apple, honey, dried apricot, and grain – almost like wheat flour. Some beautiful grassy pot-still character, with green apple, raspberries, lots of creamy vanilla, and a bit of clove and cinnamon. Compelling pot still character too, unsurprisingly. I don’t always love pot still, but I’ve always loved how it rears its head in Redbreast. The finish is full and lightly sweet, holding vanilla, clove, cinnamon, grassy grain, and apple. Quite brilliant, and measurably better than the previous batch from 2013 which I reviewed.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $110.