When one picks up a glass of Irish whiskey, you’re picking up Irish tradition. When you pick up a glass of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, you’re holding a living relic from a much older time. During the years of 1682-1792 and under British rule, harsh taxation burdened the folk of Ireland, specifically on the malting of barley used in whiskey. So, by chance, angry Irishman wanting to evade these taxes mixed malted and un-malted barley together, resulting in a “happy accident” that produced an excellent style of whiskey. The world in those days had demands for this popular style of whiskey, but sadly a dark series of unfortunate events ranging from the famine, prohibition, the Irish rebellion and the world wars would hinder its continued success and prevalence on the world whiskey stage; the art of this whiskey, along with many distilleries in Ireland, would be pushed into the shadows. Soon Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey, and Irish Whiskey in general for that matter, would go from being one of the most predominant styles to an archaic relic of whiskeys. It wasn’t until around 1966 however, that the remaining distilleries would get together and revive this style of whiskey, which would re-introduce the world to Irish whiskey. Jameson (mostly blended) and eventually others, such as Tullamore Dew and Bushmills would become some of the most prominent. As the years would pass, people around the world would begin to rediscover Irish blends, and most importantly, Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys. With this rebirth and new-found interest in this sacred water of life, the good folks over at Midleton and John Jameson & Son’s would “relaunch” this lost, but once very common, Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey.
What is a Single Pot Still Irish whiskey? Well I mentioned that at it’s base, it’s comprised up of malted and un-malted barley cooked into copper pot stills, and of course, coming from Ireland. There are 5 main lines of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey currently on the market today: Power’s, compromised of John’s Lane and Three Swallows, the legendary Green and Yellow Spots, Midleton’s (named after the legendary master distiller, and some of which includes other blends) including the Barry Crockett edition and the recent Dair Ghaelach, the Redbreast line ranging from 12-21 year old vintages with a unique 12 year old cask strength which is my current favorite, and the Cooley Single Pot Still. Recently however the good folk over at Midleton paid the winemakers of Jerez, Spain a visit to the incredible vineyard Bodegas Lustau, where they decided to age their lovable whiskey in ex-Lustau sherry butts. Ireland and Spain have had a good relationship over the years, born and matured through the continual use of Spanish sherry butts to age Irish whiskies. The Redbreast Lustau Edition is aged for 9-12 years in traditional ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks, then allowed to further mature for an additional year “in hand selected, first-fill sherry butts that are seasoned with Oloroso sherry from the prestigious Bodegas Lustau in Jerez, Spain”, according to Redbreast. Redbreast Lustau Edition is bottled at 46% abv is non-chill filtered, and the end result is nothing shy of amazing.
Redbreast Lustau Edition
ABV: 46% // 92 proof
Mash Bill: 100% Barley (malted & unmalted)
Nose: Upon this aroma we detect lush fruits, likely from berries either black or blue, or very likely both. Subtle notes of honey and maple also fill my nose, along with dried fruits – apricot and currants. Notes of vanilla and some caramel are there and finally some brown sugar. Whoa, that’s quite a nose for a younger whiskey so this goes to show you that Lustau sherry is a wine of exceptional quality, it is no surprise that these great whiskey and wine houses wanted to collaborate.
Palate: On the palate you’ll notice some rather nice cinnamon flavors here along with woody spices that are common among bourbon & sherry cask matured marriages. It’s rather creamy and there is a nuttiness to it as well – almonds and pecans. There is a toasted quality here you pick up from the wood as well, with barley being among these flavors and some caramel along with what tastes like sweet fudge.
Finish: It carries on and on and on…light notes of banana, and soft oak thats firmly present throughout the finish. I would say that much like a sauterne wine, you don’t need to eat anything after dinner with this – this is the dessert.
Nose: The vanilla is much stronger here, but the fruits are hidden away now. There is a sudden scent of apples, red and golden with a slight sensation of citrus on this fellow that I missed the first time around, however most of what I mentioned the first time around is still here.
Palate: More spices make their way here, along with vanilla which is stronger now. The palate feels more crisp now, with notes of pears and on the way out it seems a little more hasty to exit your palate.
Finish: Not as long with water, but it lingers on in its own way. Creme brûlée starts to appear now closing out in a very creamy finish.
Bourbon and House Rating: 93
w/ water: 89-90
They are two different drinks with and without water, even though they were cut from the same bottle. To me, I think I liked the dram without water, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from trying it with water. They were both good in their own right and if one likes this style of whiskey, then I encourage you to try it both ways for yourself. I gave the Redbreast Lustau Edition a 93, but with water knocks it down to somewhere between 89-90. As far as pricing for a bottle of this good dram, it seems to range from anywhere between $59-$69 depending on region and current demand.