REDBREAST SINGLE POT STILL IRISH WHISKEY
K&L exclusive small batch cask strength Batch B (2019)
MASH BILL – Undisclosed mash of malted and unmalted barley
PROOF – 114.4
AGE – 14 years
DISTILLERY – Midleton Distillery
PRICE – $108
BUY AGAIN? – All 252 bottles are gone! Another batch in this series? Sure!
Triple distilled and aged 14 years in a combination of used bourbon and sherry casks, the whiskeys that went into this special Redbreast blend are truly exceptional, making it a very appropriate subject for this Saint Patrick’s Day bonus post!
Midleton put out four batches—A, B, C and D—of this limited edition series. Each batch was blended together from 20+ barrels, drawing on two different types of Midleton’s single pot still spirit. The whiskeys in Batch B began aging in bourbon barrels before being transferred into Oloroso sherry barrels.
Sold only in the United States, a total of roughly 1000 bottles went to a small number of outlets in San Francisco, San Diego, and Boston.
Why such limited, USA-only distribution? Could be a sentimental gift from Ireland to America, land where the Kennedys shined. Or it could be 100% marketing around misfit barrels Midleton needed to move. Whatever the reason, if Batch B is representative of the whole series, these are no mere stunt. The attention given to these blends was keen. I’m very glad to have picked up this bottle, #16 out of 252 in this batch allotted to K&L.
Before the details, first some notes in brief, taken a month after uncorking and still just a few pours into the bottle…
COLOR – a light sun tea orange, emphasis on the sun
NOSE – dark milk chocolate, sweet rich caramel, cream, custard, some lemony zest
TASTE – cream, caramel, fancy dried tropical fruits, tangy spices
FINISH – long, warm, soft, tangy, rich, the dried tropical fruits soaked in rich cream
OVERALL – clean, clear, rich, ready for a party
This is good. Tropical fruit flavors aren’t typically my favorite in whiskey. But the various creamy and sweet aspects pair well with them here and create a lovely balance, with sparkling personality from the triple distillation. The finish lingers warmly and for seeming ever. And that’s where this Redbreast’s lovely balance is most sublime. Left to fade on their own sweet time, the various flavors seem to meld in the finish like the ingredients of a good soup on its third day after cooking—no single aspect demanding more attention than another, yet each still discernible.
Irish pot still whiskey is unique in the world. It was an economic practicality born out of Irish rebellion against British taxation levied on malted barley distillates. Clever distillers simply added some unmalted grains to their mash and voila, the malted barley tax no longer applied. This subversive origin lends Irish pot still whiskey its spirited nature.
How does that spirit translate into the taste of the spirit itself? With this special edition Redbreast, for me it’s the lively, almost witty combination of rich cream flavors with bright fruits. The nose, taste, and finish all seem to shimmer and sparkle like the color of the whiskey does when rolled around in the glass. The 14 years of aging ground it in the barrel oak’s natural vanilla flavors, with a boost of fruitiness from the sherry casks and robust caramels from the bourbon casks. It all conjures a fun party with live music, dancing, rousing conversation, hearty laughs, and some swaying sentimental song sung by everyone at night’s end. I literally feel a bit more awake, ready to get up and dance, as I sip at it. It’s hard to stay seated and write up these notes!
Now of course my knowing this is an Irish whiskey influences the images and metaphors that come to me from it. But even if I tasted it blind, I’m convinced I’d hit on the party metaphors. My glass is bursting with scents and flavors. Even before I’d formally nosed one whiff of it, while I was snapping photos for this post the aromas were already bouncing across the table to me, eagerly enticing me to join their fun.
This would make a very convincing introduction to someone new to either Irish whiskey or whiskey in general. It’s complex while also very approachable. It’s rich, but at the same time clear and clean and simple in its overall impact. The strong 114.4 proof asserts itself with a remarkably easygoing confidence. The triple distillation has smoothed out the distillate’s rough edges without at all diminishing the layers of flavor gained from substantial time in some very well chosen barrels.
Whether this US-only release was marketing or a sincere gift from Ireland to America, I’m so glad to have experienced it. I’ve had the standard Redbreast 12 Year, 15 year, and 21 Year bottlings. All of them are very enjoyable. But none, not even the exceptionally well-aged 21 Year, made the impression on me that this 14 Year cask strength edition has done. I’m curious to try the standard 12 Year cask strength edition next to it, to see whether or not it has similarities to this cask strength 14 Year. That might be a good test of whether this blend is truly unique in the Redbreast oeuvre.
Whiskey geek rabbit holes aside, this K&L exclusive Batch B bottling is the real deal. Even now as I wrap this post up, it continues to defy my attempts to pontificate. It virtually demands to be experienced, commentary be damned.