Bottle No. 7 – Redbreast Irish Whiskey

 

Redbreast Irish Whiskey
Redbreast Irish Whiskey

 

A quick quiz:  Which of the following whiskeys is best?

a) single malt
b) pure pot still
c) triple-distilled

If you answered “all of the above”, I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine called Redbreast.

For years, I had been a Single Malt Scotch man.  Then, I had the good fortune to visit Ireland and the Midleton Distillery in Cork.  Midleton is owned by Irish Distillers, makers of the Jameson range, the super-premium (and mind-blowing) Midleton Very Rare, and Redbreast.  Triple-distilled in pure pot stills and aged for 12 years, the result is an unblended masterpiece of flavor and smoothness.

As much as I still love my Scottish single malts, the Scots typically only distill twice.  Scientifically, I can’t tell you what difference the third distillation makes, but I can certainly taste it.  Of course, much of that taste also comes from the pure pot still process (the only way to go) and the aging for 12 years in sherry casks and bourbon barrels.  The result is a whiskey that is both smooth enough to never be too harsh in a drink and assertive enough to never lose itself to the other ingredients.

Here’s a bit from About.com’s Lance Mayhew that I think captures the wonders of Irish whiskey so well that I can’t think of how to say it better:

“By the 18th Century, Czar Peter the Great of Russia (1672-1725) declared, “Of all the wines of the world, Irish spirit is the best”. By 1755, Samuel Johnson had put the word whiskey in his dictionary, commenting, “the Irish sort is particularly distinguished for its pleasant and mild flavour”. In the 19th Century, Irish whiskey took its place as the most popular whiskey in the world, and, in the 1880s, after phylloxera  had devastated the cognac crop in France, Irish whiskey became the world’s most popular spirit.”  Yes, it’s that good.

Over the past century, however, Irish whiskey has been struggling.  Before the Great Famine in Ireland, before Ireland’s War of Independence, before Prohibition and the Great Depression in America, Irish Whiskey was a mainstay of U.S. drinking.  Today, whiskeys from the Emerald Isle trail in sales behind their Bourbon, Scottish, and Canadian cousins.  Oddly enough, one of the leading contributors to the decline of the product was the Irish’s stubborn love for the pot still.  By no measure is pot distillation the quickest, most economical method available for producing spirits.  It is, however, the most flavorful.  In a competitive post-Prohibition market flooded with inferior products, the Irish pot stills just couldn’t keep up.  Fortunately, not all hope is lost.  Today, Irish whiskeys are one of the fastest growing spirit segments, with brands like Redbreast and the phenomenal Green Spot now reaching the U.S. market.  As Green Spot can be near impossible to find, I chose Redbreast, which has a much larger footprint.  If, by some chance, you do stumble upon a bottle of Green Spot — buy it without hesitation.

As we’ll come to see, there’s a lot more to Irish whiskey than the Irish Coffee (although, we’ll whip those up too).  With its one-two punch of extreme smoothness and bold flavor, Redbreast will do your bar proud.

Interested in other Irish Whiskeys, here’s a great round-up.

Esoterica: While visiting the Midleton Distillery in Cork, Ireland, I learned how the proof was tested in the whiskey barrels.  A wick was inserted into a container of whiskey and lit aflame.  If the whiskey put out the flame, the proof was too low.  If the whiskey exploded, the proof was too high.  If it burned steadily, the proof was just right.

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33 responses to “Bottle No. 7 – Redbreast Irish Whiskey

  1. So when the Redbreast website says to add a drop of water… do they literally mean “one single drop” of water?

    • Pretty much. It’s best to think of Redbreast as you would a Scottish single malt. For a 3 oz neat pour, about 1 tsp of distilled water (or other filtered water) helps the whiskey open up. Most purists will tell you that you can only use branch water — or the water used to make the whiskey — but that’s pretty impractical.

  2. “Hello Dave.” 🙂 I think you missed a comma up there! Just kidding…awesome blog, and like someone else said, great photography. You are now officially at the top of my list of people I want to drink with (even though I’m a total lightweight and hardly ever drink). I say when this is all over we have an office party with you as bartender! Ok…enough cyberstalking for one night, see ya tomorrow.

  3. Hey twelvebottles,

    It’s Jim, whom you might remember from such international weddings as “Lars and Aimz: Italy, 2006”. While I only post on 3LP about once every six months, I check the site ever day. I’m really glad I came across this link, as it led me to trying – and really, really enjoying – a glass of Redbreast over the weekend.

    I’ve enjoyed a variety of different Scottish and Irish whiskies over the past 15 years, so I was surprised that I never heard of Redbreast. Reading your post made me eager to try this, so when we found ourselves in a place known for its single malt varieties, I asked for Redbreast on the rocks. “Redbreast? That’s someone with good taste,” was the bartender’s reply.

    Holy smoothness, Batman! I oohed and aahed over how this pure flavorful whiskey glided over my tongue that I even convinced Jenn to take a sip – she usually can’t stand brown liquor, and while she didn’t completely agree with my assessment she remarked that it tasted better than other single malts she’s tried. 🙂

    So now, I’m planning on how I can empty my liquor cabinet of the 6 or 7 half-full single malt bottles I have so that I can make room for Redbreast. My drinking habits tend to ping-pong back and forth between Scottish whiskey and American bourbon (usually Knob Creek or Woodford) but your suggestion has my Irish eyes seeing plenty of Redbreast in my future.

    Thanks, and BTW, congrats on parenthood! We hope you and Mrs. twelvebottles are doing great.

    JW

    • Wow, I guess I’ve done my work here. Glad you liked the Redbreast, Jim. Thanks for taking the time to read and, more importantly, drink (and the kudos on the kid). By the way, the best way to finish off all those malts is to drink them!

      If you want really smooth, rustle up some Midleton. Like a wine, it varies form year to year. We’ve got a 2006, and it is stupendous. For Bourbon, have you tried Buffalo Trace or Bulleit?

      I’ve got a couple of other great bottles left, so stay tuned.

  4. Not that you need me to tell you this, but dead on with the Redbreast. This Sour I’m drinking right now is the best I’ve made yet.

    Plus I love that Waz impressed a bartender by ordering it. Awesome!

  5. I wish I had read the comments before picking up a bottle of Jamison’s. I got a bit of sticker shock seeing the price of the bottle at my local Beverages & More.

    Gosh darn, now I have to drink the bottle of Jamison’s to be able to buy a bottle of Redbrest. 😉

  6. I just discovered this site, and I have a feeling I’m going to come back early and often.

    Anyway, about a few years ago I was on a family vacation to Ireland, England and Scotland for three weeks. While we were in Dublin there was a bit of free time and I decided to go wander around and explore the city. I came across a whiskey shop. (calling it a liquor store would be an insult to the place.)

    Long story short, I was looking for a nicer bottle of whiskey or two to take back. I didn’t want to get something readily available back home, I wanted something a little harder to find. I was recommended and purchased both Redbreast, and the Green Spot. The only thing I regret, is only buying one bottle each.

    • Believe it or not, my discovery of both Redbreast and Green Spot was identical to yours. I love them both, but I couldn’t tell you where to get Green Spot in the States. As the cold weather moves in, expect more Redbreast posts, and we really appreciate you reading.

      For an exhaustive review of Irish Whiskies — but one which inexplicably omits Redbreast, Green Spot, and Midleton — head on over to Drink Spirits.

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