Whisky Advocate

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Irish Whiskey of the Year”: Redbreast 12 year old

February 20th, 2011

What makes Irish whiskey unique? Some say because it’s triple distilled, and Scotch whisky is only distilled twice. Others note that it is not smoky like Scotch whisky. But there are Scotch whiskies that are triple distilled and others that aren’t smoky, and there are smoky Irish whiskeys and Irish whiskeys that are only distilled twice.

However, pot still whiskey — the process of making whiskey in copper pot stills from both malted and unmalted barley — is unique to Irish whiskey, and we think it is what gives many Irish whiskeys their character. Jameson, Tullamore Dew, Power’s, Paddy, Redbreast, Midleton Very Rare, and many other Irish whiskey brands contain a portion of pot still whiskey.

Only two whiskeys currently on the market, Redbreast and Green Spot, are 100% pure pot still Irish whiskeys and only Redbreast is available in the States. Redbreast has, for many years, been sold only as a 12 year old.  This past year, a 15 year old was introduced to the U.S. for the first time. Knowing how great Redbreast 12 year old is, we eagerly awaited the arrival of its older sibling. Could it actually be better than the 12 year old? That’s a pretty high hurdle to jump.

Well, in our opinion, it isn’t. It’s not that the Redbreast 15 year old isn’t a great whiskey. It is. It’s just that we still like the 12 year old better. In fact, we like this most recent bottling so much, it’s our “Irish Whiskey of the Year!”

Redbreast 12 year old is deftly balanced, very elegant, complex, and stylish. It’s honeyed and silky in texture, with toffee, toasted marshmallow, nougat, maple syrup, banana bread, and a hint of toasted coconut. The bright fruit and golden raisin blend in nicely with the layers of sweetness. Classic Irish whiskey, and affordable too!

Next to be announced is our “Scotch Whisky Blend of the Year”. See you back here tomorrow.

26 Responses to “Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Irish Whiskey of the Year”: Redbreast 12 year old”

  1. A spot on and well-deserved award for a great dram!

  2. Pat B says:

    A great choice! I find that the pure pot still Irish whiskey’s are simply outstanding. I was able to obtain a bottle of Greenspot and love it. I wish it were available in the U.S. I did not get the Redbreast 15 because it was twice the price of the 12 and if it is not better, I can’t see paying that much of a premium for a lessor whiskey. Redbreast 12 is a permanent fixture on my bar and is Irish at it’s finest! I am looking forward to the rest of these awards.

  3. Nabil says:

    Another great choice. More people should try this style of whisky. I think that more of them will now that they have decided to start calling it “single pot still” irish whisky instead of pure pot. It is probably the biggest bargain on the market today.

  4. John Hansell says:

    I would also like to note how affordable our award winners are. The biggest complaint here and on other social forums is how much whisky (and whiskey) prices have gone up. We are awarding some really great whiskeys that are also within most people’s budget.

  5. mister mark davis says:

    this is my favorite Irish whiskey too. and by favorite I mean it’s the only Irish whiskey I find myself drinking. that’s not because I dislike Irish whiskey, it’s because I love red breast 12.

  6. I never really seen the big fuss about Redbreast, not that I think it’s a bad whiskey

    My favourite irish this year has been a Cooley bottled by AD Rattray together with the Greenore’s 15yo


    • Michael says:

      I agree. I tried hard to understand what is so special about Redbreast 12YO, for a few months and finally gave up.

    • The Redbreast really seems to divide a little. I absolutely love it but I’ve heard quite a few others who just shrug their shoulders

      • Red_Arremer says:

        Lots of whisky folks taste Rb and think “this is nice… drinkable… whatever….” It’s hard for them to imagine that this is IT– THE Great Irish Whiskey. “Potstill character” is a pretty subtle thing to stake a whiskey’s individuality on compared to say rye character or peat character.

  7. Jason R says:

    Such an excellent whiskey and I’m amazed how often friends I offer Redbreast to become instantly hooked. Now if only I could find Green Spot somewhere.

  8. Peter says:

    Ahhh, a well-deserved winner. Redbreast 12 is one of my favorite whiskies ever, Irish or otherwise. I agree about the 15, I thought it was fantastic, but just shy of the 12. You’ve inspired me, John, I gotta pick up yet another bottle of the 12 to do a little side-by-side…

  9. Tim M says:

    Hi John,

    Last year when I said my goal was to learn more about Irish whisky, you told me that Redbreast 12 was one I HAD to try. Well, I did and you were right – many thanks! What a great whisky – a unique experience indeed. I’m not surprised it is a winner. And up here in RI, it is in the same ballpark price-wise as many good 12yo scotches – $46.

  10. Rick Duff says:

    I am not a fan of Irish Whiskey in general.. but this one is a cracker.. really excellent dram!

  11. JWC says:

    john, i bought a bottle after i read your review last year and i was extremely impressed with rb 12 yo. once again your review was spot on. i’ve recommended rb 12 yo to everyone i know and those who listened have joined me in making sure a bottle of this is always around.

  12. Nathan says:

    Good award! I love Redbreast 12 – it was one of my first few drams of “good” whisk(e)y, ever. After tasting whiskies for 6 months (mostly Scotch), I still haven’t come across anything with quite the same oily, chewy mouthfeel. I just keep coming back to it – and usually a very good deal, too.

    John – I’ve heard that Jameson whiskey is simply Redbreast vatted with column-still grain whiskey – is that true, or are there other components?

    • JohnM says:

      It’s pot still whiskey, much younger than the Redbreast, vatted with grain whiskey. Jameson components would be closer to 4 to 7 years old…

      Redbreast is a great whiskey. Even people who don’t want to like Irish whiskey usually end up liking it.


  13. Gary says:

    Great choice. A wonderful whiskey. Smooth, honeyed and a wonderful finish. I love his whiskey.

  14. D.Houston says:

    It takes quite a whisky to tear me away from Single Malt Scotch, but Red Breast did it and i can’t get enough of it. Can’t wait to go back to Ontario this summer and get another bottle.

  15. I can see why the RB12yo won … the latest 12yo batch (2010) is certainly one of the best RB12yo’s to come out in a long while. Conversely they do not seem to be able to capture the original RB 15yo in the subsequent batches. However the current 15yo does seem to be harking back to an older pot still style which is an interesting and acquired taste. All in all a totally deserved award for the RB12yo.

  16. Ryan says:

    I agree with this award and–as these awards are annual–understand the heightened interest in, “this most recent bottling,” but I can’t say that the 2010 bottling of Redbreast 12 is significantly finer than was 2009, 2008, 2007, etc. A prime endearing characteristic of Redbreast 12 is its consistent goodness at a great price.

  17. […] Redbreast 12yo. werd uitgeroepen tot ‘Irish Whiskey of the Year’ door Malt Advocate, won de World Whisky Award 2010 in zijn categorie en kreeg 96(!) punten in Jim Murray’s […]

  18. […] Redbreast 12yo. werd uitgeroepen tot ‘Irish Whiskey of the Year’ door Malt Advocate, won de World Whisky Award 2010 in zijn categorie en kreeg 96(!) punten in Jim Murray’s […]

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