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2016 Irish Whiskey of the Year

2016 Irish Whiskey of the Year

December 12, 2016 –––––– Jonny McCormick, , , ,

Redbreast Lustau Edition—46% ABV, $69

Aaah, the luxury of choice. Irish whiskey drinkers are blessed that shelves are brimming with a much wider selection than just a decade ago. It's not that long since new Irish whiskey releases were too infrequent to run an Irish whiskey section of the Buying Guide in every issue of this magazine. Now they are so numerous that we have to be selective about what goes into print. It's a good problem to have.



The first thing you need to know about this whiskey is that it doesn't carry an age statement; however, Irish Distillers has been perfectly transparent in explaining that the liquid is between 9 and 12 years old. It was matured in American and European oak, then finished for up to a year in an oloroso sherry cask made at A. Páez Tonelería in Jerez for the sherry house of Lustau. In price, it sits between the Redbreast 12 year old and 12 year old Cask Strength editions.

Redbreast last won this award three years ago, and a sherry finish to an existing sherry-influenced whiskey may not sound revolutionary to everyone, but it's the exceptional flavor profile created by master blender Billy Leighton that has won the day. There's something special about the oloroso influence on the single pot still style that works beautifully here. The sherry sculpts the whiskey, giving it definition and producing a clean, refined elegance. The nose is intensely fragrant, bursting with fat dates and squidgy prunes, red apple and Battenburg cake. It's fruity, yet delectably bone dry with oak, walnut, and spices. In the mouth, there are red berry fruits, apples, and marzipan, and the whiskey delivers a creamy yet oily consistency with a clean, sweet oloroso finish.