Redbreast 12 – Distiller: Midleton. ABV: 40%. Age: 12 years. Mashbill: malted and unmalted barley. Price: $50-55
Redbreast Lustau – Distiller: Midleton. ABV: 46%. No age statement (about 10 years old). Mashbill: malted and unmalted barley. Price: $60-70
Redbreast is square in middle of the great Irish whiskey revival. Their whole core line is top-notch: 12, Cask Strength, 15, and 21. As single pot still Irish whiskies, they combine malted and unmalted barley, and Redbreast matures them in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks.
The Redbreast Lustau is a no-age-statement (roughly 10-year-old) special edition–and a great one. What makes it special is and extra 6% ABV on top of the 12, plus a full year of finishing in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks from Spain’s Bodegas Lustau.
I had the pleasure of trying a tasting kit that included both the standard Redbreast 12 for comparison–and a sample of the Lustau itself. Rare and excellent way to track the exact influence of the finish.
Let’s start with the 12. It has a nose of green apple, candied pear, marzipan, brown sugar, and birch sap. Palate of pound cake drizzled with orange brandy and vanilla icing. A whiff of white smoke, followed by sweet oak and baking spice. Lemon pith and white pepper carry the sweeter notes to the finish.
On its own, the Lustau sherry is dry, nutty, sour, and mushroomy–but shows up in the Redbreast Lustau Special Edition quite differently. Added to the 12’s profile are buttered popcorn on the nose, plus the more usual plum, raisin, and fig notes, all with a kick from the higher ABV–though the sweetness is restrained. More toasted almond now than marzipan. The palate has raisin bars and toasted nuts, pecans and peanuts. The brown sugar notes shade toward maple.
In sum, the Lustau sherry profile makes for a brilliant compliment to the Redbreast core, adding depth, nuance, and dark fruits while reining in the sweetness just enough. Great stuff, and well worth the extra $10-15 over the 12.
Sláinte, friends! What are you sipping? – BO
A Midleton representative gracious provided samples for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.