Redbreast Single Casks


Review 100.....and when you make this milestone you may as well make it a good one. So with much hardship I duly threw myself into tasting a few Redbreast All Sherry Single Casks. 

If there is one style of Redbreast that get's the 'Birdhouse' flock all a flutter it's the All Sherry Single Cask releases. The Redbreast core range has always had that sherried element mixed in with bourbon. However due to the oily, viscous nature of the 'pot still' distillate many Redbreast fans have often thought it's the perfect base for a full sherry maturation as it should be robust enough.

At Midleton three styles of pot still are produced, Light, Mod and Trad Pot. The Light Pot is fruity and herbal, the Mod Pot is creamy and spicy, the Trad Pot is most representative of the style used originally by Gilbey's and is the heaviest bringing out earthy notes of leather and tobacco. Interestingly through the four single casks I'm reviewing all three distillate types are used.

There have been multiple All Sherry cask releases and this is certainly not an exhaustive list, only those I've been lucky to own or sample (3 out of the 4 are samples) as they aren't cheap expressions to buy.

If you want a pretty up to date list of the releases and their particulars check out this piece put together by Brian Hennessy aka The Whiskey Chaser.



The Whisky Exchange exclusive 16 year old All Sherry single cask. Cask no. 30087, laid down April 1999 in warehouse M15A. 578 bottles, 59.9% abv and retailing at £160 on release. The distillate is 'mod' pot and it's had full term maturation in 1st fill sherry. I bought this sample off Geoff Strickland for £35.

Colour: Dark amber red

Nose: Heavy & rich with plenty of oak and spice. Dark dried fruit of fig and dates along with leather, molasses, plum and cherry. Vanilla fudge, citrus zest and furniture polish. Sweet cinnamon too. Water brings out almonds, honey and sweet sherry.

Palate: Really oily. A big sherry hit of sweetness and spice. Treacle tart, fig, raisin, cocoa powder. A hot spiciness dominates now - fresh ginger, clove, pepper and menthol. Leather and stewed black tea. Water softens things slightly but still very spice driven.

Finish: Medium length with lots of spice still and a hint of copper.




The Midleton & Bow Street exclusive 19 year old All Sherry single cask. Cask no 21316, laid down March 2000. 582 bottles, 59.3% abv retailing for €360 on release. The distillate is 'light' pot and it's had a full term maturation in 1st fill sherry. I believe I bought this sample off Daniel Moody but can't remember exactly. I think I paid around £40 for the sample.

Colour: Umber

Nose: More closed than the Whisky Exchange bottling. Time allows you to be greeted by pot still spice with woody overtones of oak, cinnamon and allspice. Almonds, Vanilla, oloroso, cola bottles, stewed apples and caramel sauce. Water releases typical Redbreast fruit notes of peach and guava with more vanilla.

Palate: Not as oily as the Whisky Exchange bottling. A sweeter arrival - caramelised brown sugar, raisins, sultanas and candied orange. Toasted hazelnuts with toffee apples, black coffee, dark chocolate with stem ginger and all spice. Water gives coffee cake, chopped almonds and apricot.

Finish: Medium again with sweet black coffee, toasted oak and dried apricot and mango.



The Palace Bar exclusive 17 year old All Sherry single cask. Cask no. 18831, laid down March 2001 in warehouse M15A. 540 bottles (of which this sample came from bottle 107), 59.7% abv retailing at €350 on release. Distillate is 'light' pot and has had a full term maturation in 1st fill sherry. I have no idea who I bought this off or how much I paid!

Colour: Polished Bronze

Nose: Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream, sherry soaked peaches, apricot, raisins, dates, maple pecan danish pastry, marzipan, chocolate, licorice laces and leather. Cinnamon, nutmeg and white pepper too. Water brings out orange marmalade, coffee, more fresh peach and digestive biscuit.

Palate: Oily and creamy. Caramel brittle, praline, orange peel, fruit cake, cinnamon, nutmeg and licorice allsorts. Mocha, leather, fresh tobacco leaf. Underneath the distillate pushes more stone fruit.
Water brings out further creaminess and more fruit - red apples, peach and even a little pineapple.

Finish: medium to long with sweet cinnamon, coffee, chocolate with raisins and lingering pot still spice.



The Friend At Hand exclusive 25 year old All Sherry single cask. Cask no. 82858, laid down November 1991 in warehouse M12B. 600 bottles, 53.5% abv and initially cost £365 but I think is now priced at £450 (and now unavailable to purchase). Distillate type is 'trad' pot and was matured in 1st fill ex-bourbon for 17 years before being re-racked into a 1st fill sherry cask for the next 8 years. 

Thankfully I still own a bottle of this and in 2019 I did a bottle share of 3 bottles which led to an interesting Luas journey to the Palace Bar in Dublin for a Redbreast charity tasting with Eddie D'Arcy and Ian McDougall. I really didn't want to get mugged with around a grands worth of whiskey in my bag. Also at the Palace Bar I felt like a dealer handing out hit's in hushed tones....'Hey, are you Phil? I'm Dave....one bottle for me mate please!'

Colour: Weathered bronze.

Nose: Refined & inviting. Cherry menthol mixed with toasted oak, anise & nutmeg. Seville orange marmalade & creamy milk chocolate. Toasted hazelnuts, fresh tobacco leaf & aged leather. Creme caramel alongside peach, apricot & barley sugar. Time brings dark fruit too....dates & sultanas.

Palate: Warm & comforting. Sticky toffee pudding with dates & walnuts. Terry's dark chocolate orange & stem ginger. Pot still spice grips the mouth segueing into cinnamon, nutmeg & orange zest. Black coffee & dates. Underlying all this is orchard fruit notes of peach & apricot. The cherry menthol appears too.

Side note - I didn't add water to this as I found it so glorious at full strength.

Finish: Long with the orange zest theme continuing alongside cocoa & warming spices.

Overall

If there is one thing that Redbreast always, and I mean always, does very well is giving the consumer a really engaging nose. All these reviewed here are whiskies you could literally nose for hours quite happily and still pick out different profiles.

In the case of the Whisky Exchange exclusive it's downside is that that really rather pleasing nose doesn't quite translate to the palate where things just become a bit of a spice fest, even with water. You kind of have to fight your way past the spice to uncover the flavour profiles below. 

The Midleton and Bow Street exclusive definitely ups the ante. While being sherry dominant there is still enough of the distillate that cuts through the cask allowing the stone fruit quality of Redbreast to shine through especially when water is added.

The Palace Bar raises the bar further with great balance between nose and palate. Again those Redbreast stone and tropical fruit notes are evident on both nose and palate and allow a nice interplay between the fresh, fruity character of the distillate intertwined with the syrupy and woody spice notes from the cask. The addition of a little water brings out the distillate even more.

I know liquid perfection doesn't really exist but the Friend at Hand exclusive is 99.9% there. The best All Sherry Redbreast expression I've tried (even better than LMDW), in fact the best Redbreast I've tried....period (including the Dream Casks).

One word describes it well: Harmonious.

The nose, palate and finish are all exceptionally well balanced & integrated. I think that where the Friend at Hand expression really comes into it's own is not only the fact that it's 'trad' pot but that it had such a long period of time in 1st fill bourbon before being re-racked into the sherry cask. this has allowed those orchard fruit notes of the distillate come through alongside the earthy notes of leather and tobacco before being layered in sherry sweetness and spice. No one note dominates, they all sing off the same hymn sheet and combine to form something quite beautiful. We'll done to all involved in producing this stunning liquid.

Scores:

The Whisky Exchange exclusive 16 year old - 6 out of 10

The Midleton & Bow St exclusive 19 year old - 8 out of 10

The Palace Bar exclusive 17 year old - 9 out of 10

The Friend at Hand exclusive 25 year old - 10 out of 10
 

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