Redbreast 12 year old, Lustau Edition and Tawny Port edition


I think it’s fair to say that Redbreast has had a major role in the renaissance of Irish whiskey. Indeed, without IDL resuscitating it in 1991 the Single Pot Still style may well be a nonentity today. It’s popularity has been a real slow burner with Redbreast really being a whiskey that initially was only for those in the know in Ireland. It was very different though from the ‘smooth’ members of the IDL family such as Jameson, Powers, Paddy and even at the time of it’s release, the Bushmills blends.

Redbreast had a distinct oiliness and spice grip that made it stand out head and shoulders above the majority of Irish whiskey available at the time. While a modern interpretation, it gave much more than a nod and a wink to the heady days of Bow St and John’s Lane.

It was also the go to whiskey with which I’d try to convert non-Irish whiskey drinkers with. Those who felt that Irish whiskey lacked character and was nothing more than mixing fodder. Invariably it was always well received.

But as a famous wordsmith once said, ‘The times, they are a changin’. Single Pot Still is now very much sought after and many producers aren’t just giving modern interpretations of the Pot Still style, they are actively producing heritage mash bills much to the delight of the Irish whiskey community. Killowen have probably led the charge but Boann, Blackwater, Baoilleach and Echlinville to name a few, are all looking to the past to secure Irish whiskeys future, making the distinctive, robust, full flavoured whiskey that Ireland was previously renowned for.

The Irish Technical File is also under review so that these heritage mash bills will legally be able to be labelled as Pot Still whiskies and we will see an even greater variety of liquid coming from Ireland. It will be interesting to see how distilleries settle on their own house ‘style’ in the future.

But even staying within the current GI compliment guidelines Redbreast is under pressure. Echlinville’s first release of the Old Comber pot still was a cracker and if it had remained as was, would have been probably my first choice for an affordable single pot still. The recently released Clonakilty single pot still has made a good fist of it also. There will be many more distilleries offering their own releases over the coming years that will give consumers much more choice.

So let’s have a look again at the venerable Redbreast 12year old and see how it stands up these days, especially considering it’s now roughly around £60 a bottle.

We also have the Lustau which was the first of the Iberian series releases. A no age statement whiskey but is said to be a vatting of 9 to 12 year old whiskies that were matured in bourbon and oloroso casks before being married in a first fill oloroso butt for a year. Bottled at 46% you can buy this online for around £65.

Finally on review is the fairly recently released Tawny Port edition of the Iberian series. This is a no age statement release like the others in the series that has spirit matured in both bourbon and oloroso sherry casks before being married for 14 – 25 months in a fresh tawny port cask. It’s bottled at 46% and is available from the Midleton online shop for £86.


Redbreast 12 year old 40% abv

Nose: Not as vibrant or engaging as I remember. Pot Still spice along with milk chocolate and toffee apples. Cinnamon, ginger, oak, new leather. Vanilla custard and toasted almond flakes.

Palate: Body wise this doesn’t seem to be as oily as it was in the past. Honey, toffee apples, poached pear, cinnamon. A little clove and pepper heat mid palate along with milk chocolate buttons. Sawn oak.

Finish: Short to medium with some spry ginger, pot still spices and oak shavings.

Score: 6 out of 10

Redbreast Lustau 46% abv

Nose: not overtly a sherry bomb but sherry notes are prominent. Toffee, figs, sultanas, toasted almonds, Apple crumble, some star anise, honey, vanilla, toasted oak and a grind of black pepper. Water releases sticky toffee pudding, dates and surprisingly, sawdust.

Palate: medium mouthfeel, slightly oilier than the regular 12 year old. Acacia honey, clove, citrus peel, hazelnuts, ripe apples, vanilla, butterscotch and baking spices. Water enhances the sweetness a lot. Demerara sugar, cinnamon, marzipan. The spiciness is tempered.

Finish: It is surprisingly dry, oaky and tannic with just a hint of Parma violets.

Score: 6 out of 10

Redbreast Tawny Port 46% abv

Nose: Fudge, wine soaked raisins, marzipan, praline and milk chocolate. Warming ground ginger and anise. Apricots and some black cherry. Danish pastries and shortbread. A nice hit of pot still spice and toasted oak.

Palate: A creamy mouthfeel that leads to fruit & nut milk chocolate, salted caramel, more almonds, an orange glazed all butter pastry. Toasted oak is present along with warming baking spices. Finally we get some damsons and apricots mixed in too.

Finish: Medium length. It feels creamy with dried fruit and a subdued oakiness.

Score: 7 out of 10

Overall: Let’s start with the Tawny Port release. This is probably my favourite of the Iberian range so far. Well balanced, really drinkable and pretty good value for money. It definitely feels much better integrated than the Lustau or PX expressions. Now I just need to get my hands on the recently released Cuatro Barriles edition which marries American ex-bourbon casks, Spanish Oloroso butts, Portuguese Tawny Port hogsheads and European Virgin Oak casks. Hopefully it doesn’t all go a bit ‘Glenallachie’ and become a confused mess. Time will tell.

The Lustau is definitely different from the 12 year old, but for me it's not as well integrated. The nose is beautiful and enticing but the palate just fails somewhat for me. It’s like having a younger version of the 12 with a sherry overlay and the finish is a little too tannic. I think it benefits from a little water.

I suppose we should talk about the 12 year old. I’m pretty sure my score here will raise a few eyebrows while others may agree that it certainly has fallen of it’s pedestal a little. If you go back to my original review here you can see I waxed pretty lyrical about it. At the time I was also writing for Malt and had I been using a scoring system it would have got an 8, just as Mark scored it on Malt.

Times have a changed though. To me the most recent iterations of Redbreast 12 just don’t feel as mature, as oily in the mouthfeel or as complex as it used to be. Maybe there aren’t as many casks of older spirit making its way into the vatting, IDL are under big pressure to keep up with demand after all.

At any rate it’s still a solid dram but I’d now push people straight to Power’s John’s Lane for their Irish Distiller’s gateway pot still of choice. It is pretty much the same price of Redbreast 12 after all, has the same age statement and is bottled at the nerd’s favourite bottling strength of 46%. Still a powerful dram and one of my favourite Irish drams to this day.

I’ll return to Redbreast again in the future to see if I still feel the same.

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