Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Finally Getting my Irish on: Redbreast Cask Strength

Well, now that St. Patrick's Day is firmly behind us, I guess I can safely enjoy some Irish Whiskey; Redbreast is the most highly regarded Irish Whiskey among whiskey folks. A pure pot still whiskey from the Midleton Distillery (makers of Jameson), Redbreast was only available in a 12 year old expression for years. Then came a 15 year old and now, the newest in the line, a cask strength version of the 12 year old. The Redbreast Cask Strength was one of the most talked about releases of last year and won all kinds of plaudits, though it is only just now arriving in the U.S.

I must admit that I have never been on the Redbreast bandwagon. It's not objectionable in any way, and I like it just fine, but I've never found anything particularly exciting about Redbreast. Its flavors tend to be fairly bland and I always find it to have too much in the way of pure alcohol notes. Sometimes cask strength can really improve a whiskey that's boring at low proof by bringing out and clarifying flavors (I find this to be the case for a lot of Lowland Scotches) but sometimes the higher strength only exacerbates problems. Let's see how it goes with Redbreast.

Redbreast Cask Strength, 12 years old, 57.7% abv ($65) [Batch B1/11]

The nose is really...Irish. It opens with that sort of muted grain that's familiar from all those Midleton whiskeys. If you keep sniffing, you start to get maltier notes and even some brine. On the palate, it opens with similar grainy notes which yield to a really floral profile, like a meadow full of wildflowers, and those notes follow into the finish. There are also some bitter notes and some pure alcohol notes. Water brings out a bit of acid.

Well, if you are one of those folks who loves Redbreast, you will love this more, but the overall flavor profile is about the same as the regular Redbreast. For my part, I think that like regular Redbreast, the cask strength version is perfectly good but in no way great. Of course, I know I'm in the distinct minority on this (as with just about everything it seems) but I just don't find this whiskey that substantial in terms of flavor, and in the end, it doesn't seem to add much to regular Redbreast other than more alcohol.


Ryan said...

A minority among whisky critics, maybe, but I wonder if it's a minority in the casual drinker population. A part of me also wonders if they had released Jameson (NAS) Cask-strength instead of Redbreast 12, would it also have been Irish Whiskey of the year?

Mantisking said...

I'll agree with you that it's nothing special. In fact the regular Redbreast has a wonderful nose and the Cask Strength does not. So they managed to ruin an otherwise mediocre whisky in an effort to appease the "cask strength crowd".

David D said...

I hate it

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Roskrow pulled a Murray

Tom said...

I find myself watering it down to probably close to the standard expression ABV. Then I take a moment to contemplate why I spent an extra 20 dollars to do this myself... Afterwards, I just move to something else in my bar.