The original Redbreast 12 (43%) was my first foray into single pot still Irish whiskey – whiskey made using a mash of malted and unmalted barley, giving it a distinctly raw, grassy taste. It was delicious, and when a local bottle store marked down (or mispriced?) the cask strength version, I leapt at the opportunity to give it a bash. Score!
Before adding water, my review went something like this:
Nose: Fire. Everything is on fire.
Taste: What have I done?
Finish: Jesus, take the wheel.
At 58.2% ABV, this stuff is utterly unforgiving – one reckless whiff and it beats your olfactories into submission, one impulsive swig and your tastebuds will yearn for death. So, I progressively added water, one teaspoon at a time. With each, the alcohol settles and the fruit and oak intensifies. I settled on 3 teaspoons as being the sweet-spot, and got on with the tasting:
This is one of the very few whiskies I’ve tasted that genuinely improved after some time in the glass – there’s an initial, unpleasant burnt-rubber smell that evaporates after a while. But then a strong smell of banana, and nuts. Red onions. And a delicious orange zest.
This stuff is rich. And there’s a pile going on: A sweet, candied flavour, with the barest hint of marzipan. Something like glazed oranges, and almonds. Cherries. Fruity and oaky, earthy and floral. And throughout it all that slight rubber taste in the background (although not a deal breaker). Again, this seems to disappear with time and generous sips.
Immensely versatile, although it’s fairly undrinkable neat unless you’ve got the willpower to make it last all evening. Either way, this is not an easy drink – be prepared to experiment with water, ice and time in the glass. That rubberiness is slightly worrying as well (hoping I just got a bad batch?), and I struggled like hell to get it “right” – but I’m glad I gave it the time and effort. Strangely, I preferred the regular 12-year-old (non cask strength) version, but I’ll confirm this again in future.
Nevertheless I’m looking forward to comparing this to the 15 and 21-year-old expressions, as well as the fabled Green and Yellow Spots.