Reviewing Redbreast 12 Cask Strength, 15, and 21 - You Can't Go Wrong

Redbreast Irish Whiskey

Redbreast is an Irish whiskey produced in New Midleton Distillery (home of Jameson). It’s not a single malt, but rather a pot still, which is made from both malted and unmalted barley. Unmalted barley is typically responsible for greener notes, and it’s usage is traditional from an era where the UK charged tax based on how much barley was malted.

Whisky producers in both Scotland and Ireland blended malted and unmalted barley to save on taxes, but Ireland kept up the practice even after Britain updated its tax laws. Using unmalted barley has an affect on flavor, and it also increases the cost of fermentation because yeast prefers sugar-rich malted barley over starch-heavy unmalted barley. 

Not all Irish whiskey is pot still, just like not all Irish whiskey is triple-distilled, but Redbreast does both. While triple-distillation tends to remove some of the grain flavour (in this case, malted and unmalted barley), Redbreast remains a grain-forward whiskey with malty, nutty, and cereal notes. While subtle notes come from the grain, much of the flavour comes the selection of barrels for whisky maturation. 

Redbreast is deceptively delicious to the point that it's often under-appreciated. Redbreast 12 Year Old is a better sipping whisky than most Scotland scotches at a similar price-point and age. But this review isn't about the regular 12 year old, you can read that one from an earlier time. Instead, this is about the three superstars of the lineup that are even more brilliant. 

Redbreast 12 Cask Strength
Midleton Distillery
Taste score: 96
Category: Irish Whiskey, Pot Still
Whisky Cabinet Score: ★ ★ ★ ★

Redbreast 12 bottled at cask strength shares the same recipe of the already excellent Redbreast 12 Year Old, without the addition of water. You'd think this would have it taste familiar, but where Redbreast 12 is wonderfully complex and smooth to drink, the Cask Strength is a roller-coaster ride of flavour. Though, in truth, it's not really a roller-coaster--it's more like one of those amusement rides where they drop you from great heights at extreme speeds, only to be lulled into a cushiony stop.

Nose: Sharp wood carving notes, malty sweet, and artisanal melted caramel (fancy way of saying the caramel notes are especially exquisite). The nuttiness from the grain comes through beautifully, more so than I've experienced in any other whisky, but combined with the caramel-sweetness, it does so much more.

Palate: A flavor bomb in your mouth. You'll get the rich vanilla notes, a big hit of cinnamon spice, and then an explosion of caramel sweetness and black pepper spice. Dried fruit round out the flavours. The mouthfeel is thick and buttery, and the finish is black pepper spice, salt, and rich butter. The finish is long, buttery, peppery, and beautiful. 

Conclusion: An intense flavor bomb. It might not sound terribly complex, but it's the intensity of the flavours that really work here. If whisky were an artisanal cinnamon stick with layers of caramel, this would be it.

Redbreast 15 Year Old
Midleton Distillery
Taste score: 92
Category: Irish Whiskey, Pot Still
Whisky Cabinet Score: ★ ★ ☆ 

Redbreast 15 Year Old takes the winning formally of the 12, and leaves the whisky in the barrels for an extra three years. Compared to the 12 year old, this will take on more green apple and toffee notes. The sour-dough really comes through. It's far more complex on the nose, and more peppery on the palate. The 15 variety steps away from smooth, and into an enriched accelerated experience. It's not quite the 12 cask strength, but it's on its way. It's also non-chill filtered (unlike the 12 regular expression). The oiliness comes through wonderfully. 

It scores as my least favourite of the bunch, but not because I don't enjoy it, but because the competition is fierce.  

Nose: Malted grain, green apple, light zest, some vanilla sweetness. Sour-dough and candied-apple. 

Palate: A lovely malted barley sweetness that settled on the tongue with warm caramel notes and cinnamon spice that floats across. This is a wonderfully composed whisky. The butter and brown-sugar sweetness is a big part of the wonderful finish, with a dabbing of peppery spice. It's a long finish that builds the flavor wonderfully on the second and third sip. 

Conclusion: A richly smooth and wonderful whisky that makes sense. This is the love story that you can't stop watching. It is a subtle whisky, so if you watch a lot action movies, it might seem off-putting. But no, that's not what this whisky is for. You need the right mood for this whisky, and trust that it'll take you on a lovely journey.  

Redbreast 21 Year Old
Midleton Distillery
Taste score: 96.5
Category: Irish Whiskey, Pot Still
Whisky Cabinet Score:    

Aged for 21 years minimum, bottled at 46% ABV, this is the star of the lineup. It combines the youthful edge of the 12 year old cask strength, the added depth of the 15 year old, and amps up both to what they do well. Older whisky isn't always better, but it is better in this instance. 

Nose: Yeasty, old barrel, dark red apple, honey, and sticky toffee pudding goodness. Cinammon notes come through nicely. It's sweet, complex, delicious. This is a scotch you leave out for a while, and play with the changes in the nose. All the great scotches will change beautifully after five minutes, ten minutes, thirty minutes and onwards. 

Palate: Honey sweetness to the point of pain, blended with notes of cinammon spice and sticky toffee goodness. Those dried fruits come through, figs especially, but stuffed away somewhere, but rather freshly warmed by the fireplace on an otherwise chilling day. What's the perfect pot still Irish whiskey on the palate taste like? It's this. 

Conclusion: Redbreast 21 is celebrated as a winning whisky. It has something for everyone. For the scotch drinkers, the nose is beautiful. For bourbon drinkers, it has the wonderful buttery mouth-watering notes combined with pepper and cinammon spice. There are so few whiskies at this price range that do so well (it's a $200sh whisky in most markets but can sell for over $300). 

*Whisky Cabinet Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆  Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆  Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆  Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆  Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★  Extraordinary, memorable, and original