In the world of Irish whiskey, it doesn’t get much better than Redbreast. I’d even go so far as to say that Redbreast is one of the best whiskeys in any whiskey, with an excellent 12-year-old core expression as well as some delicious older age statement bottles. In fact, one of my most romantic whiskey memories is sampling a cask-strength, single-barrel Redbreast at a dusky Dublin bar on an autumn night a few years back. Both the liquid and the atmosphere were so emotive. So I was very eager to try this new expression, a celebration of the Irish-Iberian connection which is represented by the sherry casks that are used to mature a portion of the whiskey. The newest in the Iberian Series is the limited-edition Pedro Ximénez Edition, which intensifies the sherry influence on the whiskey to great effect.
If Redbreast has somehow eluded you, I strongly advise correcting this post haste, but here’s a little primer to catch you up. It is a single pot still Irish whiskey, which means that it is made at one distillery in Ireland using pot stills from a mash bill of both malted and unmalted barley. It’s produced at the Midleton Distillery, where a variety of other whiskeys are also made, including a little brand called Jameson that you might have heard of. Redbreast is matured in a combination of bourbon barrels and sherry butts from Spain, along with some port pipes for older expressions, which gives the core range its unique and vibrant flavor profile.
A few years ago, the Lustau Edition was released, a whiskey finished in Oloroso sherry casks from the Lustau Bodega. The PX Edition was initially aged in bourbon and oloroso sherry casks, and then transferred to Pedro Ximénez sherry hogshead casks for another 12 to 22 months, according to the brand. These are smaller than regular sherry casks, so the interaction between wood and whiskey is augmented during this secondary maturation period. And the results are exquisite. The nose starts out with aromas of apple and spice, with just a hint of orange and chocolate on the back end. Take a sip, and the palate explodes with rich dried fruit, leather, coconut, vanilla and a bouquet of tropical fruit. There’s a bit of must and oak on the finish, which is a pleasurable way to end this spicy, fruity, and sweet (but not saccharine) sipping experience. At 92 proof, there’s a welcome bit of heat on the palate as well.
While a sip of rich, syrupy PX sherry can be an intense and sometimes overpowering experience, it’s hard to imagine that this Irish pot still whiskey will be anything but pleasing to most whiskey drinkers. No, the concept of a sherry cask finish isn’t exactly a groundbreaking innovation in the world of Irish whiskey, but it can go overboard and become unbalanced. Fortunately, Redbreast has struck the right note with this new release, and really brought the specific flavors of two far-flung corners of Europe together in an intriguing way.
What Our Score Means
- 100: Worth trading your first born for
- 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
- 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram
- 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
- 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
- Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this
Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.