Redbreast is a single pot still Irish whiskey from Midleton distillery in Cork, matured in exclusively first-fill Sherry and bourbon casks. Rich and spicy with great mouthfeel, the Redbreast range is a firm favourite here at Master of Malt.
Originally matured under bond by W & A Gilbey using spirit from Jameson's Bow Street distillery, Redbreast J.J. Liqueur Whiskey 12 Years Old was first released in 1912. In reality, however, the whiskey in question had been produced by Gilbey's since 1903/04 in similar packaging under the name John Jameson & Son’s Castle JJ Liqueur Whiskey 12 Years Old. This followed earlier releases of John Jameson & Son 'sole make' dating back to 1887. By the 1960s around 18,000 litres of Redbreast was being bottled each year.
When Irish Distillers was formed in 1966 by bringing together the remaining, and at the time struggling, distilleries in the Republic of Ireland the writing was on the wall for those ageing casks under bond in their own warehouses. Irish Distillers were to concentrate on their own brands, especially Jameson, as they consolidated their efforts during a difficult time for Irish whiskey as a whole. Gilbey's, no doubt aided by Redbreast's reputation as a fine whiskey - 'the priest's tipple' - continued to be supplied spirit right up until the summer of 1971, however, when Irish Distillers moved their single pot still production to Cork. This allowed Gilbey's to continue producing Redbreast into the 1980s.
Although whiskey distillation left Dublin altogether during the 1970s (only returning recently), the rich, full-flavoured single pot still style it was once known for survived. The Jameson and Powers distilleries on Bow Street and John's Lane respectively, may have closed but single pot still remained central to Irish Distillers' plans and their new state-of-the-art distillery built at Midleton. Following the success of Jameson during the 1970s and having bought the Redbreast brand from Gilbey's around 1985/86, it was time for the distillers of Redbreast to recreate this great whiskey using some of the finest casks at their disposal, especially first-fill ex-Oloroso casks from Jerez.
In 1991, they were in a position to relaunch the Redbreast 12 Year Old we know and love today. Redbreast 15yo would join the range in 2005, the year after Billy Leighton became Master Blender, with Redbreast 21yo being launched in 2013. A Cask Strength 12yo is also available, which is created using a slightly different profile to the regular 12yo (as opposed to the same whiskeys simply bottled at natural strength).
Fun Fact: Redbreast is said to have been named by a Gilbey's chairman who was also a keen birdwatcher, presumably in reference to the ruby hue found in a glass of this tasty whiskey. Robin redbreast is, of course, a common name for the European robin. With the range of Redbreast whiskeys available today, you may find yourself wondering what the collective noun for robins is. Allow us to help you: It’s a worm. A worm of robins! Pleasing.