Whisky Advocate Award: Irish Whiskey of the YearDecember 14th, 2013
Redbreast 21 year old, 46%, $180
I was going to say that the performance of Irish Distillers over the last couple of years marks the greatest comeback in modern times, but that honor has to go to the astonishing antics of the U.S. America’s Cup sailing team. Nevertheless, the owners of Jameson have well and truly snatched the initiative back from its competitors, and this year it pulled off a highly surprising double.
Shortly after our Irish whiskey edition, Irish Distillers held a “housewarming” and unveiled a new training center, new stills, and plans for twenty new pot still whiskeys in the next ten years. Then just a couple of weeks later, they unleashed this.
In a few short years Irish whiskey has been turned on its head. The Teeling family started the revolution at Cooley, but now Irish Distillers has carved out a separate path and firmly re-established the unique, distinctive, and wonderful pot still whiskey style.
Redbreast 21 year old completes a hat trick for Irish Distillers, but this is by far and away the best Irish release of the year. It’s an immense whiskey: oily, spicy, rich, gloopy, and with red berries, menthol, and citrus abundant. It’s complex, too, but you don’t have to live with it long to realize what a gem it is. And very well judged: the oak and spice suggest that these first fill bourbon and sherry casks had reached the edge of a cliff.
Sensibly the strength is bang on the money, too, and almost certainly a cask strength version would not have worked. Heaven only knows if Irish Distillers can continue to raise the bar like this. It’s going to be fun watching them try though. Stunning. Again. —Dominic Roskrow
We hope you’re enjoying these: the Japanese Whisky of the Year is next up, tomorrow.