REDBREAST 12 YEAR CASK STRENGTH
Batch B1/18 bottled on 28 May 2018
MASH BILL – unknown proportions of malted and un-malted barley
PROOF – 112.4 proof
AGE – 12 years
DISTILLERY – Midleton Distillery
PRICE – $105
WORTH BUYING? – Yes
2018 wasn’t that long ago, so this bottle doesn’t qualify as a “dusty.” But that year’s Redbreast releases were among the last before the most recent label change. A new label doesn’t mean a new taste, of course. But it can prompt fans of a brand to worry.
Several months ago I did read a claim, posted somewhere on the social meds, that the Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength had indeed altered its flavor profile alongside its label. I’d be hard pressed to track down that post now.
In any event, that social media post prompted me to pick up this bottle when I saw it gathering dust at an off-the-beaten-track corner store. If there was any truth to the suspicion, why not pick up an old label bottle and enjoy it? It might not actually be different than more recent releases. But I knew it certainly would be good—it’s Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength, after all.
If I were going to be scientific about this, I’d get a new-label release to compare. But in this instance I feel less interested in the minutia of pseudo-science then in simply revisiting this great offering of the Redbreast brand—arguably the most intriguing of the brand’s standard releases.
So here we are, three weeks after uncorking and five pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – vibrant brassy and honey ambers with orange glints
NOSE – baked orchard and tropical fruits, hibiscus flower, crème brûlée, vanilla-caramel syrup, salt, that copper pot zing
TASTE – lemony caramel custard, baked mango in a pudding, thick cream on fresh pineapple, black pepper, a thin line of oak tannin, copper pot zing
FINISH – both milk and white chocolate, caramel custard, cream, faint mango and pineapple
OVERALL – Irish whiskey greatness, balancing the cream and fruit aspects with a virtually ringing copper pot spiciness
The copper, oak tannin, and black pepper together etch a discernible, enjoyably crisp edge around the softer and deeper fruit and cream/caramel notes. The proof is just right, adding heat without burning, bringing bright light to the party without blaring out the cozy warmth of the experience.
Irish whiskey is the great winter party whiskey for me, bringing life and wit to the chilly months. I still love it when spring rolls around, of course, when its liveliness matches the fresh green leaves and clear blue sunny skies. But when skies outside are grey it’s nice to pour some fun sunshine in a glass.
This 2018 cask strength outing also achieves what I believe Irish whiskey does at its best: complexity without complications. It’s smart, not heady. Fun, not frivolous. There are layers of aroma and flavor to be parsed—if one chooses to parse them. The whiskey is just as content to let the drinker drink it down without much ado and get on with the singing and dancing.
If the new label Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength releases do indeed come with a shift of some kind from this flavor profile I’m enjoying today, maybe that’s a poor thing or maybe it’s just fans fussing. I can’t know. I do know I’ve never had a bad Redbreast experience, only some I enjoy more than others. Those 2019 14 Year US-only releases (check here and here) were stellar. Other products from Midleton, like Blue Spot, offer similar parties for the senses. So it becomes a matter of how much you want to spend.
The lower-ABV releases won’t have the oomph and energy of the cask strength outings. But they won’t be bad. With the recent spike in pricing, though, and considering the range of options, one can afford to be choosey, wait for sales, etcetera. I personally seldom find Midleton whiskeys surprising. I know whatever release I pick up will be something in the realm of good. And sometimes, as with this 2018 old-label 12 Year Cask Strength release, they’re pretty great.