Ireland is a curious spot in the whisky world. The laws there have had a history of being notoriously lax, often creating exploitable confusion about what certain terms mean, case in point, the Irish term Single Pot Still Whisky (formerly Pure Pot Still Whisky). One would think that calling it Irish Single Pot Still Whisky would mean it was distilled in a single pot still… it does not. The term is actually more about the mash bill.
The term and style came to be from a creative volley between the distillers and excise men of Ireland. Distiller’s had been hiding the whisky they distilled to avoid being taxed for it, so excise men put forth a tax on malted barley making it more difficult to evade taxes on their production. Taxing the raw materials made it harder to hide how much distillers were producing.
Ever the crafty bunch, distillers began using less malted barley and began padding their production with untaxed, un-malted barley. The enzymes from the malted barley helped break open the proteins of the unmalted and turn the carbs into sugars, but the un-malted barley still gave the whisky a unique body and flavor profile. This blend of barley types is, more or less, what makes an Irish Single Pot Still whisky. Not that there are very many distillery groups operating in Ireland today, but at the moment, there’s really only one group distilling in this style; the Irish Distillers Group.
Nose: Lots more birthday cake and vanilla tower over the fruit which is hiding a little more in this one. The grassy notes are meatier here than in the standard 12, too. French toast type custard. Hay and a little chocolate. Water unleashes coconut and fruity pebbles.
Palate: Lots of oak and almond. Confusingly, the standard 12 year has more fruit in the nose and not so much the palate, while in this one the fruit is buried under the vanilla cake in the nose but finally makes it to the party with a huge posse when it reaches the palate. Said birthday cake comes afterwards in the finish. Water won’t break the palate on this one, but it’s a tough call to say if it’s better for the addition.
This Cask Strength bottle is not only a higher proof than the primary 12 year, but also non-chill filtered; truly, Redbreast in the raw… and its amazing. Out of the three, this is my favorite.
I always take samples whenever I buy a bottle I haven’t tried before. One of the benefits of this strategy is that should you buy the next expression after the first one is gone you can still try them side by side. This way memory has a harder time tainting the reality of your senses. It’s like taking before and after pictures.
There’s a war going on in the world of Redbreast. I can’t explain it. A lot of people love the 12 year release more and a lot of other folks really dig the 15 year more. After trying the standard 12 year, 12 year cask strength and 15 year side by side, I find my original notion that I loved the regular 12 the most to be wrong (I actually lean more toward the Cask Strength 12), but I still like the standard 12 just a little more than the 15… not that the 15 is anything to turn your nose up to, it’s just a little darker and heavier while at the moment I prefer a lighter fruit in my whisky. It’s a very close call either way.
Nose: The aroma profile is heavier than the 12 or Cask Strength; both are much lighter, brighter whiskies thought this is not without its lighter side, hidden in some green apple notes. Berries and polished leather. The abundant grassy notes lean more towards hay here. I almost thought I smelled a buttery note, but the birthday cake turned to a very mellow, almost boring, vanilla.
Palate: Caramel apples in the first notes. Grassy finish. Deeper and a little darker. Malty. Kumquats. They all have nice bodies, but this is the nicest of the three; It’s like a Werther’s Original caramel dissolving in your mouth. Mouth-watering.
Deep red and keeping the dream alive!
There are a lot of things whisky aficionados will talk about when discussing what makes a quality whisky. Lots of purists will espouse the value of non-chillfiltering, not adding caramel color and bottling at cask strength. You’d be hard pressed to build a case against any of these ideals, but as with anything in life, there are always exceptions.
There’s definitely some E150 caramel coloring in this release. Hold a sample of the 12 and 15 year side by side and it becomes pretty obvious. This isn’t uncommon, by any means whether you believe the psychological impetus behind the decision to color is underhanded or appropriate. The Cask Strength and 15 year releases also tout the Non-chill filtered nomenclature on the label leading me to believe that the 12 year standard is, in fact, chill filtered to boot. Also, at a mere 40% abv you’re not even close to cask strength. Still, you’d be wasting your time if you tried to convince me that Redbreast’s 12 year old is an inferior whisky. This stuff is delicious.
Nose: Maraschino cherries and gummy lifesavers. Uncooked boba tea pearls and some buttercream vanilla frosting. A sweet and fruity malt with a few funky, grassy notes. Modestly toasty. Deliciously fruity. Water opens up lots of fresh notes and granite.
Palate: Not as much fruit on the palate. Butterscotch and malt. The typical Redbreast birthday cake flavor is obvious. Some almond as it travels down. Juicy! While water helps the nose along, it kind of takes some of the grassy notes in the palate to the barnyard.
What else can I say? Classic! The whole Redbreast line is amazing as well.