I’m really lucky to have gotten a bottle of the new Redbreast 12 Cask Strength from Irish Distilers Limited a while back. Thanks, James! It should be coming to the U.S. in early 2012. Now that I’m over half way through the bottle, I should probably write up some notes. :-)
This Redbreast is a “Pure Pot Still” Irish whiskey, matured in a combination of sherry and bourbon casks (probably more bourbon than sherry). Fortunately, rather than explain this term myself, I can just point you to the new post on The Whisky Exchange Blog that tells you all you ever wanted to know (and possibly more) about pure pot still whiskey: Midleton Distillery Trip: Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys Pt.1. Enjoy!
Redbreast 12 Cask Strength; Batch B1/11; 57.7%
The “official” tasting notes for this whiskey talk of a fruit explosion on the nose, and I’ve read others describe it similarly. I must say, I have a different impression. To me, it’s more of a wood explosion. Yes, the nose offers up dried fruits, apple, and a hint of banana. However, to me at least, it’s wood-based scents that really hit you over the head. Cedar wood chips and heavy vanilla, primarily. The higher alcohol content seems to thrust the woody notes right down your nostrils. Add a little water and the vanilla turns more to butterscotch, reminding me of Ponderosa Pine sap.
The nose is very nice, but the palate is where Redbreast 12 CS really shines. It starts out sweet and juicy, then those wood spices hit, gripping your tongue, aided by a drying sensation. What an amazing feeling in the mouth! The 57.5% isn’t overwhelming, either. It’s strong, but it feels right. Even more amazing, you can water it down a little and the spice and tingling stay there, further enforcing that it’s not just the alcohol content doing all of the work.
The finish brings back some of the dried fruit, which is nice, while introducing a combination of malt and grain. The grain lingers on the tongue as an after-taste.
This is NOT just the standard Redbreast 12 year (which I often recommend to newbies as an “accessible” whisk(e)y”) cranked up to 11. At first, I was a little disappointed by the 12 CS, as I braced myself for the aforementioned fruit explosion. I tried it side-by-side with a number of Speyside whiskies, and the Redbreast paled by fruity comparison to all of them.
Once I got over that pre-set expectation, though, I came back again and again for the unique, gripping experience experience on the palate. Also, if you’re in the mood for vanilla and wood on the nose, few will top this one. A very good nose, GREAT palate, and good finish, the whole is well above average for me, and definitely worth a spot in the cupboard. B+ (88 Points).