Comparison: Two Irish Cask Strength Whiskeys – Blue Spot 7 Year & Redbreast 14 Year

BLUE SPOT
standard release (2021)

MASH BILL – Undisclosed mash of malted and unmalted barley

PROOF – 117.4

AGE – 7 years

DISTILLERY – Mitchell & Sons (Midleton Distillery)

PRICE – $76 (more commonly $100)

REDBREAST
Maison Corbeaux exclusive small batch cask strength Batch A (2019)

MASH BILL – Undisclosed mash of malted and unmalted barley

PROOF – 117.2

AGE – 14 years

DISTILLERY – Midleton Distillery

PRICE – $136

Having enjoyed the Red Spot 15 Year somewhat despite its steep price, I was keen to experience what a younger cask strength whiskey in the Mitchell & Sons Spot series might be like.

When I uncorked this Blue Spot bottle, I was immediately struck by how like it was to the Redbreast 14 Year I also had open. The Blue Spot showed toasted honey, vanilla caramel custard, bitter fruit skins, faint tropical fruits, and dusty wood on the nose. The taste was sparkly and crisp around a soft gooey center of caramel, cream, custard, and fruit notes both dark and bright. Its bright youth and sparkly proof made for a crackling warm fire of a whiskey, and my sense-memory kept conjuring up my experience with the Redbreast…

But rather than go back and review my notes on the Redbreast 14 Batches A and B, I decided to do a comparison between the Blue Spot and Redbreast Batch A, which I still had on my shelf.

So here we are, roughly three months after uncorking the Redbreast and a week after uncorking the Blue Spot. Tasted side by side in traditional Glencairns, here are some notes in brief.

COLOR

BLUE – a medium toasted sienna-amber

RED – a light and lemony sienna-amber

NOSE

BLUE – bright lemon-zesty caramel, custard, milk chocolate, floury baked buttermilk pastry, cream, banana and other tropical fruitiness

RED – dusty, reserved, lemon in a glass of fresh water, lightly baking-spiced caramel, a bit of custard and cream, warm baked banana with caramelized cinnamon and sugars

TASTE

BLUE – warm, a nice slight prickliness, rich sweet caramel, dried tropical fruits like mango and pineapple, deep but vibrant

RED – rich and creamy texture, tingly and relaxed, a rich layer of creamy caramel, melting Werther’s candies, dusty oak spice and a dash of wood tannins, only a faint tropical fruitiness

FINISH

BLUE – caramel, custard, the dried fruits, a wood spiciness at the edges…

RED – the caramel and wood aspects, lingering together with a lasting tingly warmth…

OVERALL

BLUE – fruity, sweet, creamy, vibrant

RED – creamy yet dry, sweet yet woodsy

WORTH BUYING?

BLUE – Oh yes, especially if one can find it at two digits rather than three.

RED – Given the price, as a one-time splurge, yes.

As these two whiskeys share a number of stats, it’s no surprise they offer two variations on a similar experience. The stats they share include:

  • Single pot still Irish whiskeys
  • Triple distilled in copper stills
  • Made by Midleton Distillery
  • Very likely the same mash bill
  • Bottled at cask strength

Their divergences include:

  • Age: 7 years for Blue Spot and 14 for Redbreast
  • Casks: Blue Spot is aged in three types (bourbon, sherry, madeira) and the Redbreast in two (bourbon and sherry)
  • Proof (though only slightly): Blue Spot is 117.4 and the Redbreast is 117.2

So although they share many of the same tasting notes, the flavors unfurl in slightly different orders, at varying intensities and with differing qualities. It’s no surprise that the older whiskey is a bit more reserved overall. Nevertheless it’s still a traditional single pot still Irish whiskey, and it lifts its old bones to join the party. By contrast, the younger Blue Spot enters briskly and already dancing.

Surprisingly, the younger Blue Spot is slightly darker in color. Perhaps this comes from the rich red remnants of the Madeira casks used in the blend.

To be honest, tasted blind it might only be the color that would allow me to distinguish between the two with certainty. Were I to also blind myself to that aspect, I might have to do a bit a deep memory searching to make my guess as to which was which.

Given that, and considering price and availability, for anyone wondering where to put their money I’d say Blue Spot is the easy choice. This Redbreast special release from 2019 is no longer available in any case. So considering that, perhaps the more useful comparison from a consumer standpoint would be with the Red Spot 15 Year, aged and priced similarly to the Redbreast 14 Year. And in that comparison, not even having a bottle of Red Spot on the table to compare with the Blue Spot side by side, I’d still say the Blue Spot is the easy choice. Though younger, the Blue Spot is bottled at cask strength and this pronounces its flavors with far more gusto than the Red Spot’s 92 proof is able to do. The Red Spot grew on me over time, opening with reserve and a bit of a synthetic edge to it, whereas the Blue Spot was entirely pleasing right out of the gate.

My experiences with various Irish whiskeys have left me with the general thought that they are less complex than their Scottish cousins, yet always lively and fun. But comparing these two Irish whiskeys side by side, my attention is drawn to the nuanced differences in their very familiar flavor profiles. They are both exceptionally pleasing. For the price, I may still favor scotch overall. But my appreciation of what Irish whiskey specifically has to offer—the zing of the copper stills and the spirited blend of sweet fruit and candy notes—is deepening steadily as I make my way through these cask strength bottlings.

Sláinte!

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