Let’s get this out of the way right upfront—Redbreast is one of the best Irish whiskeys in the world. Yes, there are other very good options in the category to consider, but Redbreast is better than those. So can a new port cask finished version of this already excellent whiskey improve upon the classic version? The answer is yes.
Redbreast falls into the distinctly Irish category of single pot still whiskey, meaning it is distilled in a pot still at one distillery from a mashbill of malted and unmalted barley (a minimum of 30 percent of each must be included, and there can be up to five percent of other cereal grains used as well). The distillery in question here is Midleton, the massive operation just outside of Cork, Ireland that is home to some other brands you have definitely heard of like Jameson, Powers, and Green Spot. The core range consists of whiskeys aged between 12 and 27 years, all of which are great, with the sweet spot being the 15-year-old. These are mostly aged in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, although there are some port barrels used for the 27-year-old.
Then there’s the Iberian Series, which explores the effects that maturation in casks from this part of Europe has on the whiskey. Sherry casks have obviously played a role here, but this new edition focuses on Portugal. Redbreast Tawny Port Cask Edition is a non-age statement whiskey that was initially aged in bourbon and sherry casks, and then a portion of that whiskey was finished in tawny port barrels for “a number of years,” according to the brand. All of the whiskey was then blended back together and finished in “freshly seasoned” tawny port hogsheads for a period of 14 to 25 months by master blender Billy Leighton and blender Dave McCabe.
The result is a superb whiskey that has gotten a full dose of flavor from that port finish without being overwhelmed by it. The color is copper-orange, and the nose is vibrant and bright with notes of vanilla and raisin. A lengthy port finish like this can often become overly tannic, but not so here—instead, the palate is rich and syrupy with notes of candied orange, raspberry, oak, citrus, and spice, and the original whiskey’s fruity character still shines through. This would be a great dessert sipper, but I wouldn’t say no to drinking this as an aperitif either.
Cask finishing is nothing new in the world of Irish whiskey. But when it has a purpose, a point, and a reason beyond just the sake of doing it, that’s when it all comes together and starts to make sense. The reason why Redbreast is such a great whiskey is not obscured here—it’s on full display and the influence of the port barrels is pronounced yet done with precision. If you needed another reason to fall in love with Irish whiskey, this bottle might be it.
- 100: Worth trading your first born for
- 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
- 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram
- 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
- 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
- Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this