It’s rare that I let a bartender I don’t know talk me in to trying a new whiskey. If I don’t know and trust them it’s likely they are just trying to get more paper out of my wallet. So the way I discovered Redbreast is a bit of an anomaly. You see I was in Austin, Texas a little over a year ago with my wife celebrating our 9th anniversary and our first time our overnight without the kids in a decade. We had gone to see Austin Lucas and ended up being able to catch Lucero the very next night. We got down to 6th street fairly early, as you do, and ended up walking around looking at random stuff and trying to decide where to drink. I ended up settling on Bull McCabe’s on Red River. I walked in, commandeered a bar stool, and waited for the barkeeps, both Irish judging by their accents, to finish whatever heated discussion they were having. It was early in the evening and there wasn’t really a crowd yet and everything felt laid back so I didn’t worry about not getting the world’s fastest service and I liked the atmosphere. When one of them came over and asked what I would be having I ordered my fallback in an unknown bar “Jameson, neat” and he replied, much to my surprise, “No ya won’t”. I nearly fell of the stool and must’ve looked like I was ready to leave. He continued, in his Irish accent “I’ve got another Irish here that I swear you’ll like better, in fact I am so sure of it that if ya don’t it’ll be free and I’ll buy your first Jameson”. At this point I figured I’d just lie about whatever he poured and get myself two free shots. (I never said I was a proud man.) He poured me a shot of Redbreast while telling me it was a 12 year pure pot still. While I knew what that meant what I didn’t know is what I had in store. He handed me the shot and I took it, like a man I might add. The next thing I knew my mouth betrayed me. Whereas I had planned to lie and get the free shots, as I mentioned above, what I did was say “That’s fucking good, gimme another” and so he did and I paid for my shots. In the end he bought my first for me anyway but I didn’t have a swallow of Jameson in that bar. Ever since that night I have extolled the virtues of Redbreast. It occurred to me the other that I hadn’t, in fact, extolled those virtues here and that I damn well should. So here goes…
First I think an explanation of “pure, or single, pot still” is in order in case we have some uninformed drinkers out there. Single pot still, to use the more modern vernacular, is made from a mash of malted barley and unmalted or green barley, usually in a 60% to 40% ratio which differentiates it from single malt which, as the name suggests, contains only malted barley. All Irish single pot still whiskeys are distilled three times whereas most single malt whiskeys are distilled twice. I believe that, as of this writing, Redbreast is the only easily obtainable single pot still available in the US.
Redbreast is a very rich whiskey with a lot of character. It is not as smooth as some other Irish whiskeys I have tried, and believe you me that’s a few, but the lack of smoothness plays to my tastes. Whiskey should have a bit of a bite but with that bite it should deliver a good flavor to go with it. Part of the character comes from the fact it’s aged in sherry casks so the usual vanilla flavors you get in a whiskey, which come from aging in oak if you wanted to know, are enhanced quite a bit. This is a sweet whiskey overall with enough of a bite to let you know that are drinking whiskey but not enough of a bite to make you want to pour something hideous in to it (water, coke, sour, and so on) to dilute the flavor. It’s in a slightly higher price range than Jameson but well worth the extra 10-15 a bottle. If you are a whiskey drinker then you should try Redbreast for sure. While it’s not my house whiskey it replaces Jameson if I am out of the house and can find a bar that has it in stock.
If it means anything, that party I had last year, with Revolt 45, Austin Lucas, and Micah Schnabel, wasn’t all that huge and we killed off 8 whole bottles of the stuff. Everyone I have talked to, that likes whiskey, has really enjoyed it and one honest to God Scotsman exclaimed “Why that’s as good as Glenmorangie” but ya can’t trust Stevie all that much, his taste in booze was, after all developed in Scotland.