Last night saw the launch of a brand new Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey expression to join a range that already contains the excellent Redbreast 12 Year Old, Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength and Redbreast 15 Year Old.
I know what you’re thinking: “What is the collective noun for robins?”. It’s a worm. A worm of robins. Yep.
The new expression? A 21 Year Old! We were more than a little excited. The Dave Broom quote on the Redbreast website sums it up nicely:
“If the ship was going down within sight of a desert island, my flailing left hand would make a grab for a bottle of Redbreast.”
Desert island whiskey.
Unique to Ireland, Single Pot Still Whiskey is created from a mash of both malted and unmalted barley, and it's triple distilled. Having decided back in 2010 to extend the Redbreast range with a further age statement release, the challenge was on for Midleton’s master blender Billy Leighton, now in his 38th year with Irish Distillers, to come up with the goods. And that’s just what he’s done.
Redbreast 21 Year Old – 46% abv
Before the main event, however, we tasted the existing range with Billy himself in the stylish, industrial surroundings of Oskar's Bar, downstairs at Dabbous Restaurant, London.
Billy talks us through the existing range.
It’s undoubtedly a fine selection – how will the 21 year old fit in?
The Redbreast flavour profile is achieved through the use of exclusively first-fill Sherry and Bourbon casks and the 21 year old is no exception. This makes cask selection all-important as spending such a long time in first-fill could easily see the wood overpower the whiskey if care isn’t taken. Let’s see how it turned out...
Here she is!
Tasting Note for Redbreast 21 Year Old:
Nose: Tropical pineapple (!) and crushed peanuts specifically, a bit like the combo you get on the outside of those soft cheese rings. Rich, rounded, spicy – prunes, quinces, a little deeply caramelised apple.
Palate: Mouth-filling and reassuring. There’s a menthol note Billy spoke to us about alongside the expected spiciness and some leather. On the tail there’s a touch of nectarine. (Although actually this may have emerged after I’d started tucking into the nibbles from the tasting menu!)
Finish: A little tangy fruit gives way to sweet and savoury barley notes.
Overall: Tremendous stuff! Intricate and still full of life even though there’s a good proportion of 28 year old whiskey in there*. The heavier, more traditional single pot still spirit provides that leather note, whilst lighter single pot still spirit contributes something more herbal – in this case menthol (such is my understanding). Thoroughly enjoyable.
It was wonderful to taste the Redbreast range side-by-side too, revisiting some favourites in the process. They share a common identity (certainly rich, spicy notes, dried fruits, great mouthfeel etc.) but they also each offer something noticeably different. (e.g. the 12yo has notes of fresher, greener fruit with cream as well as fruit pastilles on the nose – the 15yo is like spicy, mini Picnic bars** – the 21yo adds those tropical fruits into the mix…***). Development of the spirit during maturation as well as the influence of the master blender and cask selection are, to a certain extent, observable at a tasting like this. (Well I find fun and interesting anyway!)
Wakamomo (early-picked Japanese peaches) – a fantastic pairing for Redbreast 21 Year Old, as Graeme from Edinburgh Whisky Blog will attest!
There he is on the right, next to those Caskstrength chaps.
You can hear a little more about Redbreast whiskey from the affable Billy Leighton in the video below, and find his latest baby, the Redbreast 21 Year Old, on the MoM site soon!
YouTube, it appears, chose a frame where Billy is doing his best Tom Hanks face.
* Age statements, of course, can only indicate the age of the youngest component, whilst a few dozen casks of varying ages contributed to this batch.
** Speaking of which (mini-rant warning) – we have a box of Cadbury Heroes in the office and who knew that Toblerone and Twisted Cream Eggs had been added?!? At the poor Picnic bar’s expense though! World’s gone mad I tells ya! Those little Picnic bars were brilliant!
*** The 12 Year Old Cask Strength is a different beast too, but (entirely unfairly) I was concentrating on comparing the other three.