Posts tagged ‘Redbreast’

Phil’s Favorite Irish Whiskeys

Of course I’m giving the nominees for my favorite Irish whiskey on St. Patrick’s Day.  What other day would be appropriate?  Be safe, and try not to do something stupid.  St. Patrick did not approve of stupidity.  Without anymore chatter, here are my Irish whiskey nominees.

Name: Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve

Style: Blend

Age: No Age Statement

Batch: 2011 Release

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $300-350/750ml

Notes: Although this Jameson does not contain an age statement, this particular release was a blend of older grain whiskeys (the oldest of which was 31 years old) and younger pot-still whiskey aged in port pipes (the oldest of which was 15 years old), which is why the price point on this whiskey is so high.  This is a rich, creamy, expressive whiskey with a lot of different flavors going on.  The flavor profile works everywhere from espresso and mocha flavors to crème brulee and rich toffee sweetness.  This is a hard whiskey to find, but well worth it if you can find it.

Name: Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength

Style: Single Pot Still

Age: 12 Years

Batch: B1/13

Proof: 119.8 (59.9% abv)

Price: $60-70/750ml

Notes: Most Irish whiskey has the reputation of being silky and smooth, but this is not that type of Irish whiskey.  Every year, Redbreast releases a limited edition of their 12 year-old at cask strength.  There are several batches of this juice that could have made this list, but this particular batch was my favorite.  This batch was aged exclusively in refill Sherry casks, and it yielded flavors of toffee, raisins, espresso, and rich vanilla cream frosting.  At cask strength, this is a big, bold beauty of a whiskey.  Although this is a limited release, it is available at higher end liquor stores with larger selections of Irish whiskey.

Name: Redbreast 15 Year-Old

Style: Single Pot Still

Age: 15 Years

Batch: N/A

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $80-90/750ml

Notes: This expression of Redbreast offers a different take on the Redbreast house style in that unlike most Redbreast whiskeys, this is aged in a combination of ex-Sherry casks and ex-bourbon casks.  The result is a whiskey with malty notes, reminiscent of Irish soda bread.  There are also orchard fruits present, dark chocolate, and some bitter orange peel, flavors not present in other Redbreast expressions.  This Redbreast drinks more like traditional aged blends of Irish whiskey, a great different take on Redbreast.  This one is readily available, and comparable in price with many single malt Scotches of the same age and casking.

Name: Redbreast 21 Year-Old

Style: Single Pot Still

Age: 21 Years

Batch: N/A

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $200-225/750ml

Notes: This expression of Redbreast is the same pot still whiskey that has always been a part of the standard 12 year-old, aged in the same Oloroso Sherry casks.  The only difference is 9 years, and those 9 years do wonders to bring forth rich baking spices, mango cream, and blackberry cream cheese flavors.  This is a difficult whiskey to find, but not impossible.  And, if you’ve got an Irish whiskey lover in your life, this makes one hell of a gift.

Name: Teeling Single Malt

Style: Single Malt

Age: No Age Statement

Batch: 2015 Release

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $45-50/750ml

Notes: Teeling has been sourcing and bottling great whiskeys for a few years now, and this expression is no different.  Although there is no age statement on this whiskey, the label states that there is whiskey as old as 23 years in the bottle.  There is also whiskey from five different cask types (Sherry, Madeira, White Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Port) in the final product.  The result is a stunning whiskey with flavors of fresh raspberries, white grape preserves, bread pudding, and fresh red apples.  This whiskey is hard to find because of its limited release in the United States, but it is not an especially sought-after whiskey, which makes it available for those who know where to look.

Advertisements

WhiskyLive Boston 2014 Review

Earlier this autumn, I attended Whisky Live Boston with several of my very good, whisky-loving friends. The great food, great company, and excellent whiskies always make this a highlight night of the year, and this year was no different. Here are some of my thoughts on some of the drams I really enjoyed from this wonderful evening…

The view from the 2nd floor of the State Room during Whisky Live Boston 2014.

The view from the 2nd floor of the State Room during Whisky Live Boston 2014.

Coming into the evening, the American whiskey that I was most looking forward to trying was the new 8th release of Parker’s Heritage Collection, a 13 year-old straight wheat whiskey. I was, of course, very excited when I saw a bottle of this sitting on the Heaven Hill display table, but I was a little disappointed on the whiskey overall. Perhaps my standards were too high because I was really stoked to try this one, but I found it a little too grain-driven for my tastes. This is still a very good whiskey and a great idea, but I did not like it as much as I have enjoyed previous PHC releases.

Lest you think I stormed out of the venue and swore off whiskey for the rest of my days, I did have the chance to enjoy some fantastic drams. I really enjoyed the balance between fruit, spice, and oak in the Redbreast 21 year-old, certainly one of the finest Irish whiskeys I have tried to date. I got to try some of the whiskeys that Koval is bottling, and I am anxious to find more. I was also very impressed with some of the Benromach whiskies I sampled at the Gordon & MacPhail display table (more on that in the weeks to come). I thoroughly enjoyed getting to taste the two most recent Laphroaig Cairdeas releases side-by-side. I preferred the 2013 release to the 2014 release, but they are both fantastic. The 3rd edition of the “Islands” impression from Bruichladdich was a wonderful pour, and the Speyburn 25 year-old is not to be missed. However, none of these wonderful whiskies were left holding a medal in my book at the end of the night (these medals are not real, so I apologize if I got your hopes up). Without further ado, here were my three favorites from WhiskyLive Boston 2014.

Bronze Medal Winner: The First Editions – Bowmore 17 yr. This is an independently bottled Bowmore that was distilled in 1996, and bottled in 2013 from a single ex-bourbon barrel at cask strength (52.8% abv). I think the Bowmore spirit is definitely best with a little age under it, and this one was really a zinger. The age smoothed out some of the plastic, acidic notes of Bowmore’s younger whiskies, and left a wonderful whisky. The palate was a full-bodied cavalcade of Memphis barbecue, peat, ginger, and wet clay. This one balanced the spirit and the cask wonderfully, giving a very welcome dose of peat and spices with some dark sweetness mixed in. The price tag on this bottle ($150-175/750ml) would probably be a little beyond what I would pay for the contents, but this was definitely a wonderful take on Bowmore’s spirit.

Silver Medal Winner: Laphroaig 10 yr. Cask Strength (Batch 006). I will avoid ranting about this whisky here, as I have already given it plenty of praise on the blog with previous releases. That said, this was one of the best releases of the 10 year-old cask strength that I have had. It balances the sweet flavors of the ex-bourbon casks with the rich Laphroaig peat almost perfectly. This is always reasonably priced ($70-80/750ml) for the quality and strength, and is a very worthy addition to any winter liquor cabinet. I will certainly endeavor to buy a bottle of this wonderful whisky.

Gold Medal Winner: Bruichladdich Octomore 06.1 Scottish Barley. This was my first go at the legendary Octomore, a 5 year-old, cask strength peat monster (peated to 167 ppm, nearly four times as peated as standard Laphroaig), and I was lured into its mysteries. When the barley is peated to that level, something crazy happens, and this whisky shows a depth of character that I have rarely experienced. It smells and tastes like the earth after a bonfire, with a touch of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. There are also some lovely citrus notes that mingle with the soot and coaldust, giving the palate a sublime workout. This whisky is not cheap ($150-175/750ml), nor is it easy to find, so I do not think a full bottle is in my future, but this was surely my highlight of Whisky Live Boston 2014.

I know that my highlights were all peated Scotches, but those were the whiskies that stood out most to me, so that’s what I picked. All across the board, it was a night of wonderful whiskies, great company, and a wonderful venue with a fantastic aerial view of Boston. If you’re in Boston, hope to see you at Whisky Live Boston 2015 next fall!

Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength Irish Whiskey Review

In my protest against the debauchery of St. Patrick’s Day, I waited until after March 17th had passed to review one of my favorite Irish drams – the Redbreast 12 year-old, bottled at its full cask strength.  I reviewed the standard Redbreast 12 year last year, and was left wanting more.  Having tried a few different batches of the Redbreast at its cask strength, I am quite satisfied.  This inculcation of the Redbreast’s single pot still whiskey is aged exclusively in ex-Sherry casks, and is non-chill filtered.  This particular review is of Batch B1/12, which comes in at 117.2 proof (58.6% abv).

On the nose, this whiskey is dense with barley, banana peels, dark chocolate, wood sealant, lemon-lime soda, fresh red apples, and some old driftwood.  The nose is a unique, funky blend of spirit and cask, only hinting at its lifetime in ex-Sherry wood.  The palate reveals the sherried character a little more.  It is an oily and full-bodied palate, with notes of red apples, Amontillado and Fino sherry, dark chocolate, white chocolate, raisins, and dried blackberries.  The finish is long and warming, with a wonderful combination of sherried character, mocha, vanilla, strawberry, and a soft, oaky woodiness.

Overall, this is a deep and powerful dram that opens up beautifully with a drop or two of water.  Not all Irish whiskey is soft and smooth; this one opens up with both barrels, and does not give up easy.  It is also delicious and intriguing from start to finish.  If sherry-aged Scotch is your thing, give the Redbreast Cask Strength a try, and let it ride.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  My grade: A-.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  With this only being about $15 more than the standard Redbreast, I’ll go for this one every day of the week.

Top Ten Conversion Whiskeys (and Happy Repeal Day!)

Well, it’s Repeal Day, and that calls for some good ol’ whiskey fun.  December 5, 2013 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition in the United States, and I am celebrating with a list of my Top Ten Conversion Whiskeys.

Since most of us whiskey nerds have folks in our lives that do not enjoy whiskey, it is important to remember that evangelism is just as important as enjoyment.  One should not impose whiskey on others, but the introduction to whiskey can never hurt, right?  (Note: I realize that there are ethical problems with tying somebody to a chair and pouring whiskey down their throat.)

This is a list of whiskeys that I have found useful in the conversion process.  Some people do not like whiskey for all kinds of reasons – because it is too harsh, not flavorful enough, does not accommodate their palate, or they are just plain old prejudiced.  So, I have tried to incorporate whiskeys from all over the map, and all across the flavor wheel to help you convert that loved one in your life.  Not all of these whiskeys are personal favorites of mine, but they are all readily available in most liquor stores to help you in your proselytizing.  (I have also limited the list to one entry per distillery, and there are no limited edition whiskeys on here, only standard range releases.)

Honorable Mention:  Wild Turkey American Honey – While this is not technically a whiskey, it deserves a mention here because it is the best bourbon liqueur on the market today at preserving the flavors of bourbon.  This can be a great gateway drug, especially when served on the rocks with a splash of Wild Turkey 101 on a summer afternoon.

10. Ardbeg Uigeadail – This might seem like a strange entry on this list since most folks are turned off by peat, but there is a story here.  The beautiful woman I am currently dating is a coffee drinker who has never found whiskey to her liking.  Ardbeg Uigeadail was the breakthrough whiskey for her, so to the coffee drinker in your life, Slainte!

9. Bunnahabhain 12 yr. – Another Islay entry on this list makes it here because on its simplicity, and its drinkability.  The whiff of smoke works well for beer drinkers, as does the dense sherry on the palate.  For the lover of wee heavy ales, and Belgian Tripels, Bunnahabhain 12 yr. can be very persuasive.

8. Gentleman Jack – I know few (if any) whiskey lovers that love Gentleman Jack, but I know a ton of weekend gin guzzlers that love Gentleman Jack.  It speaks to a unique audience, and works well at converting that gin guzzling neighbor you know.

7. Basil Hayden’s – This is a bourbon on the lighter side of bourbon, and it lacks a lot of the dense, sweet notes that bourbon is known for.  It is a great introduction to spicier, more floral bourbons for that sultry Southerner you’re trying to convert.

6. Bushmill’s 16 yr. – This is a port-finished single malt Irish whiskey that is both sweet and dry, reminding me a lot of port, itself.  If you are seeking to convert a wine drinker, have a bottle of Bushmill’s 16 yr. on hand at your next house party.

5. Crown Royal Reserve – This super smooth Canadian dram is great for this conversion endeavor because of its allure.  The packaging works just as much as the contents of the bottle to convince the stubborn hold out that their life is about to be enhanced by whiskey.

4. Four Roses Yellow Label – This is flat out the most drinkable bourbon available.  It is mellow and sexy, and prime conversion material, which is one of the primary reasons it was one of the first whiskey reviews I ever did.

3. The Balvenie 12 yr. DoubleWood – This is on the list precisely because it works.  I don’t have a ton of analysis beyond the fact that I know at least three people who have told me that this whiskey changed their life.

2. Redbreast 12 yr. – This silky Irish pour will always be the highlight of a dinner party because of its combination of floral, sweet elegance, and its superb drinkability.  It is also an Irish whiskey so the tough, hard-working stockyard workers in your life will be more easily swayed.

1. The Glenlivet 12 yr. – This takes the number one spot on my list because it is the whiskey that converted me.  I was miring in a world of craft beer and rum (both of which are still wonderful) until I picked up a bottle of this juice on a whim one day.  Four years and a blog later, I could not be happier with that decision.  I also happen to know that my good friend, William from A Dram Good Time, could tell you a similar story about this Glenlivet expression.

Those are my favorite conversion whiskeys; what are yours?  What whiskeys do you keep on hand for those hold outs at your house parties?  Are there any great conversion whiskeys I have left out?  Happy Repeal Day, and don’t forget to let it ride!

Whisky Live Boston 2013

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend Whisky Live Boston, a massive alcoholic drinks exhibition in downtown Boston.  For nearly four hours, vendors, brand ambassadors, and sales representatives discuss their products, while hundreds of patrons sample the aforementioned products.  Most of the exhibits are whiskeys of some kind (bourbon, Scotch, Irish, Australian, etc.), but rum, tequila, vodka, gin, and cocktails of all kinds can also be found at Whisky Live.  It is a great event to try new spirits, socialize with other whiskey enthusiasts, and eat some very good food cooked with whiskey (Four Roses supplied the entrées this year).

If you ever get the chance to attend Whisky Live (or another similar event), I highly recommend it.  However, an evening at Whisky Live requires planning and pacing.  If you love whiskey as much as I do, it is too easy to become overwhelmed and go crazy.  This usually results in irresponsible drinking, a rough night, and an even worse morning.  But, if you pace yourself, drink plenty of water, and make your rounds well, you can have one of the best evenings of your calendar year!  Here are a few of my highlights of Whisky Live Boston 2013.

William Gemmell (of A Dram Good Time) and I at  Whisky Live Boston 2013

William Gemmell (of A Dram Good Time) and I at Whisky Live Boston 2013

I got to try two bourbons from Heaven Hill that I have wanted to try for some time – Parker’s Heritage Collection Promise of Hope and Elijah Craig 12 yr. Barrel Strength.  Previous editions of Parker’s Heritage Collection have been some of the best bourbons released in the last decade, but I was disappointed in this particular edition.  That said, it is still a worthy investment, since 25% of the proceeds from every bottle goes to ALS research.  The Elijah Craig Barrel Strength is quite a bourbon.  It is nearly black in the bottle, but it takes water very well and equals a very good bourbon in the end.  I am definitely going to be looking for a bottle to review this fall/winter.

I also got to try two very good rye whiskeys that I will be reviewing in the next few weeks: Angel’s Envy Rye and George Dickel Rye.  Stay tuned to the blog for more information on these fine ryes.

Now, for my whiskeys of the evening…  The three whiskeys that really won the evening for me were Glenmorangie Signet, Redbreast 12 year Cask Strength, and Sullivan’s Cove French Oak Port Cask (if you are reading the blog and thinking about present ideas for me this holiday season, take a hint).

Glenmorangie Signet is a wonderful single malt Scotch that is made with 20% chocolate malt in the grain bill, and then batched together with older Glenmorangie barrels.  It truly is a wonderful sip, with a lot of dark mocha notes, as well as some Sherry influence, and a warming sensation that will warm you up even on the coldest nights.  It is not a cheap or easy to find whisky, but if you find it, it might be worth it to bite the proverbial bullet ($225 or so) and grab a bottle, because this is damn good juice.

Redbreast 12 year Cask Strength is simply a cask strength offering of the single pot still Redbreast 12 year.  At 119.8 proof, this sherry-aged Irish gem leaps out of the glass and across the taste buds with dark fruits, floral notes, sherry, and coffee.  This whiskey is the best Irish whiskey I’ve experienced to date  (although the Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve at Whisky Live came close), and it is usually around $70 for a bottle, making it a great choice for the holidays.

Last, but certainly not least, Sullivans Cove French Oak Port Cask is a Single Cask Malt Whisky from Sullivans Cove Distillery in Tasmania.  This juice is very hard to find in the United States, and it usually sells for about $150 per bottle, but it is some phenomenal whisky.  It is a single malt, aged exclusively in a French Port pipe, which lends the spirit dark chocolate notes, plums, port sweetness, all with an upright malted backbone that comes through with some burnt toffee and vanilla pound cake.  This stuff is really good, and its limited availability means you should pick up a bottle if you ever find one.  (Much thanks to Terry from Drink Insider for recommending this one; otherwise, I probably would have never ventured over to the Sullivans Cove booth.)

Those are my thoughts on some whiskeys that impressed me at Whisky Live.  What whiskeys have impressed you lately?  What whiskeys are you looking forward to trying this fall (whiskey season)?

Redbreast 12 Year Irish Whiskey Review

Redbreast 12Today, I am reviewing Redbreast 12 year, a single pot still whiskey from the Midleton Distillery in Cork.  A single pot still whiskey is very similar to a single malt, with the only difference being that a single pot still whiskey includes both malted and unmalted barley in the mash bill.  Like other Irish whiskeys, Redbreast is triple distilled.  The Redbreast label is also home to a 15 year edition and a 12 year cask strength bottling in addition to the standard 12 year, which is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

On the nose, Redbreast is a quite sweet spirit.  There are notes of Red Delicious apples, honey, some light caramel, all backed up by a background mix of floral notes and barley.  The nose is rather complex for how light it is.  Unfortunately, I think this whiskey trails off after the nose.  The palate is very light with some sweet malt and caramel bread pudding notes.  The finish is short and slightly malty, with a hint of apples.  But, I really had to go seeking for flavors on the finish.

Overall, this is a fine whiskey, one of the finer Irish whiskeys I have had.  This one is beyond drinkable, and I suspect that would make it a great compliment in a Hot Toddy.  However, if you are looking for something to sip slow, this one lacks depth.  The tasting experience is pleasant, but not very original in my opinion.  I definitely like this whiskey, but I think its drinkability holds back its depth.  The 12 yr. cask strength is very high up on my whiskeys to try, though.  I am anxious to see what could happen to this spirit at a higher proof.  My grade: C.  Price:  $40-45/750ml.  This is a good whiskey, but it is definitely not my favorite.  That said, if you enjoy a light, fruity, malty spirit, Redbreast 12 could be your new cabinet staple.  Give it a try for yourself and let it ride!