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Redbreast 12 Year: A Masterclass in Irish Whiskey




Redbreast 12 Year

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Redbreast 12 Year is a single-pot still Irish whiskey that exemplifies the rich tradition and exceptional craftsmanship of Irish distilling. This article will explore the unique characteristics, production process, and tasting notes of Redbreast 12 Year, as well as its place in the world of premium whiskeys.

Redbreast 12-Year Irish Whiskey

Perfect for Special Occasions

Elevate your celebrations with Redbreast 12 Year, an exceptional choice for toasting life’s milestones. Its refined palate makes it a distinguished addition to any gathering, impressing even the most discerning whiskey aficionados.

What Makes Redbreast 12-Year Special?

Redbreast 12 Year stands out for several reasons:

  • Triple distillation: A hallmark of Irish whiskey, enhancing smoothness
  • Single pot still: Made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley
  • Maturation: Aged for at least 12 years in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks and ex-bourbon barrels
  • Full-bodied flavour: Rich, complex taste profile with a distinctive character

As noted by whiskey expert Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible, “Redbreast 12-Year Old is probably the most beautiful single pot still whiskey in the world.”

The History and Heritage

Redbreast 12 Year

Origins of Redbreast

Redbreast has its roots in the early 20th century, emerging from a partnership between the Jameson distillery and wine merchants Gilbeys. The name “Redbreast” is said to come from the Robin Redbreast, and was chosen by the chairman of Gilbeys who was an avid birdwatcher.

According to “The World Atlas of Whisky” by Dave Broom, “Redbreast is one of the most historically significant Irish whiskeys, representing a style that was once prevalent but nearly disappeared in the 20th century.”

The Single Pot Still Revival

Redbreast 12 Year has played a crucial role in the revival of single-pot still whiskey, a style unique to Ireland that was nearly lost during the 20th century. Its continued success has helped preserve this important piece of Irish whiskey heritage. The brand was relaunched by Irish Distillers in 1991, playing a pivotal role in reviving the single-pot still style.

Production Process

The creation of Redbreast 12 Year involves several key steps:

  1. Mashing: A mixture of malted and unmalted barley is mashed
  2. Fermentation: Yeast converts sugars to alcohol
  3. Distillation: Triple distilled in copper pot stills
  4. Maturation: Aged for at least 12 years in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks and ex-bourbon barrels
  5. Blending: Carefully selected casks are blended to achieve the signature Redbreast profile

Tasting Notes and Expert Reviews

Redbreast 12 Year offers a complex and rewarding tasting experience:

NoseNutty, rich, sherried fruits, creamy, banana, pears
PalateSpicy, fruity, sherry, toasted wood, marzipan
FinishLong, creamy, caramel, spices

Key Flavors

  • Dried fruits (raisins, figs)
  • Nutmeg and cinnamon
  • Vanilla and caramel
  • Toasted oak
  • Sherry sweetness

Whisky Advocate rated Redbreast 12 Year 94 points, noting: “A delightful combination of rich spicy flavours, full-bodied, and complex. Deliciously smooth.”

How to Enjoy Redbreast 12-Year

To fully appreciate Redbreast 12 Year:

  1. Use a tulip-shaped glass to concentrate aromas
  2. Serve neat or with a small splash of water to open up flavours
  3. Let it breathe for a few minutes before sipping
  4. Take small sips, allowing the whiskey to coat your palate

Awards and Recognition

Redbreast 12 Year has garnered numerous accolades, including:

  • Gold Outstanding at the International Wine & Spirit Competition
  • Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition
  • 94 points from Whisky Advocate
  • Named Irish Whiskey of the Year by Jim Murray in 2010
  • Received a rating of 96 points in John Hansell’s Buyer’s Guide

Comparison to Other Irish Whiskeys

FeatureRedbreast 12 YearJameson 12 YearGreen SpotRedbreast Lustau
StyleSingle Pot StillBlendedSingle Pot StillSingle Pot Still
Age12 Years12 YearsNAS (7-10 Years)NAS (9-12 Years)
Cask TypesFirst-fill Oloroso & Ex-BourbonBourbon & SherryBourbon & SherryBourbon, Sherry & Lustau
Flavor ProfileFull-bodied, SpicySmooth, LightFruity, LightRich, Sherried
Whisky Advocate Score94929393

Redbreast 12 Year stands out for its:

  • Fuller body: More robust than many Irish blends like Jameson 12-Year
  • Complexity: Offers a wider range of flavours than typical Irish whiskeys
  • Sherry influence: Prominent sherry notes not found in all Irish whiskeys
  • Age statement: 12-year age guarantee, unlike NAS offerings like Green Spot
  • Market position: Largest selling single pot still Irish whiskey in the world
  • Reputation: Regarded as the definitive expression of traditional pot still whiskey

Benefits and Drawbacks


  • Rich, complex flavour profile
  • High-quality, traditional production methods
  • Consistent critical acclaim


  • Higher price point than some competitors
  • May be too intense for those preferring lighter whiskeys
  • Limited availability in some markets

Some users on note that the 40% ABV can be a bit low for experienced whiskey drinkers, preferring the higher-proof Cask Strength version.

Helpful Resources

Food Pairings

Redbreast 12 Year

Redbreast 12 Year pairs well with:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Blue cheese
  • Smoked salmon

Cocktail Recipe: Redbreast Old Fashioned

Redbreast 12 Year
  • 2 oz Redbreast 12-Year
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Orange peel for garnish

Muddle sugar and bitters, add whiskey and ice, stir, and garnish with orange peel.

Whiskey Glossary

  • Single Pot Still: A whiskey made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley, distilled in a pot still
  • Triple Distillation: The process of distilling the spirit three times, common in Irish whiskey production
  • Sherry Cask: A cask previously used to age sherry, imparting distinct flavours to the whiskey

Where to Buy The Redbreast 12-Year

Ready to experience Redbreast 12 Year for yourself? You can find it here or check with your local speciality liquor stores.

Redbreast 12 Year: Conclusion

Redbreast 12 Year is more than just a whiskey; it’s a testament to the art of Irish distilling. Its rich history, unique production process, and exceptional flavour profile make it a must-try for any whiskey lover. While it may not be for everyone due to its full-bodied nature and higher price point, for those who appreciate complex, traditional Irish whiskeys, Redbreast 12 Year offers a drinking experience that is both deeply satisfying and enlightening. As the definitive expression of single-pot still whiskey, it continues to play a crucial role in preserving and promoting this unique Irish whiskey style.

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