A very nice expression of a classic Irish Whiskey that is finished in Tawny Port Hogsheads before its final bottling. Definitely a nice change from the regular version and a step up.
Notes: Red Breast has always been one of my perennial favorite Irish whiskeys and a reliable choice at a ( better ) bar. Made in Midleton, Ireland, Red Breast is a brand owned by Irish Distillers, a holding or Pernod Ricard ( who also owns Wild Turkey in a related whiskey and avian coincidence – and they share about as much common characteristics as a side observation – radical differences yet common characteristics in some ways). Made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley, which helps in the complexity of the finished product in several ways, it is interesting that all this can be done without mixing in other grains to achieve the complexity of this whiskey. Triple distilled in pot stills, then aged in a mix of used bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry butts (cask of approximately 126-132 U.S. gallons or roughly double the size of a bourbon barrel), then blended to achieve their hallmark expression the 12 Year Old. The range of Red Breast whiskey runs from 12 to 27 years old.
It is a bit unclear ( as there is no age statement ) for this whiskey. We will assume it is a 12-year-old to start. Whatever the age is, we do know it undergoes further treatment of the whiskey in the form of being barrel-finished. In this case, which is the 3rd iteration of their Iberian cask series, the whiskey is put in a tawny port cask (which is a hogshead of 66 gallons). The aging/finishing period is between 14 and 25 months, depending on a number of factors, mostly reaching the desired profile, and this, of course, can vary by the batch and the finishing barrel. This goes a long way in explaining the lack of an age statement.
I will skip over some of the details and refer the interested reader to the Red Breast website, which contains a fair amount of details ( indeed more information than many other websites if not exhaustive as some ( such as Waterford Whiskey) have enough information to make it worth digging through – unlike about 80 percent of other website IMHO.
Appearance: Clear, a touch darker than their standard 12-year-old Redbreast, with a color shift that reflects the extra aging in the tawny port casks in the slightly browner and more subdued shadings of a very light amber spirit.
First Impression: Much more subtle in the malt and grain department, with the sweetness and dark fruit ( especially figs of various varieties) characteristics and an orange marmalade note brought on by the port and malt interactions on the hogshead.
Taste: Delicious and subtle, Malt and tawny port make for a dark fruit, a jammy mix of tastes with a softening of the grain malt profile. Reminds me of amareno cherries, Grecian figs, and nice wood and subtle Latakia tobacco notes in the nicely lingering finish. Quite pleasantly different than the standard 12-year-old ( which is quite nice on its own ) and shows off the extra barrel finishing to good effect.
Drinks: Makes a number of better Irish and Scotch whiskey cocktails of the old-school variety. Also of course, enjoyed on its own in a proper whiskey glass such as a Riedel or Glencairn. Also works well in a more robust coffee in morning – but use one with less flowery notes, the port notes add a nice lift to a stronger , earthier coffee but can clash with a more floral one.
Bottle: Dark green glass to protect the whiskey from UV degradation and a signature bell or pot still-shaped bottle that is easy to spot and hard to tip over. The slightly bulbous neck fits the hand well, and the bottle overall has a nice balance. The mauve neck foil is slightly different from the dark red foil of the 12-year-old edition and is easy to remove. The foil has an imprint that says “Red Breast Iberian Series.” Underneath on the top of the stopper is a drawing of a Red-breasted Robin stamped into the top and “Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey ” stamped on the rim. There has been a bit of an upgrade on the bottle recently. They have added “REDBREAST” molded into the shoulder of the bottle in capital letters on the front of the bottle and “SINGLE POT STILL” on the back shoulder.
Other: Works well with a shade wrapper cigar such as a CAO, maybe a smaller gauge such as a panatela.
Final Thoughts: A nicely done expression of a pot still Irish whiskey which, while already a standard, if not classic example, is subtly enhanced and modified by its time in a tawny port hogshead before it is bottled. Definitely a new Red Breast to explore!
Overall, it is an excellent website by industry standards. Not as much information to satisfy true whiskey geeks, but more than enough for most whiskey fans and an excellent overview of many expressions most people will not be familiar with.