LUXlife Tries Redbreast’s Spectacular 27-Year-Old Permanent Expression
In early March, prior to the lockdown that many of us never imagined, we were kindly invited to Kildare, Ireland for the official launch of Redbreast Irish Whiskey’s oldest ever permanent expression, Redbreast 27 Year Old. During this trip, we were fortunate to learn about the making of the sumptuous blend and witness its impressively unique taste, as well as giving our readers an insight into how our expedition to Kildare fused Irish tradition with Portuguese flavour.
An Insight into Redbreast 27 Year Old
On the 5th March 2020, Irish Distillers, makers of some of the world’s most enjoyed whiskeys, launched their special Redbreast 27 Year Old permanent expression.
LUXlife was invited to the exclusive launch at the Cliff at Lyons retreat in Kildare, Ireland. Throughout the day we were hosted by Redbreast to gain an insight into the origins of the 27-year-old blend, in order for us to understand its flavour profile and exclusivity when we later tasted it.
An iconic addition to Irish Distillers established Redbreast collection of single pot still Irish Whiskeys, Redbreast 27 is the oldest expression, taking head of the family which currently includes 12, 15 and 21-year-old blends along with Lustau.
However, it isn’t just RedBreast 27’s age which makes it so special, it’s the Portuguese influence which makes this blend like no other. Bringing a new complexity to the Redbreast collection, the 27-year-old whiskey has been matured in a combination of ex-bourbon barrels, ex-sherry butts and, most notably, ex-port casks from Portugal’s Douro Valley.
From the moment we arrived in Kildare, we were immersed in a cultural experience which fused Irish tradition with Portuguese flavour, perfectly setting the scene for our tasting of the special Redbreast 27. As part of learning how the famous Portuguese port casks enhanced the flavour profile of the whisky, we were invited to take part in a class making our own bath salts. This was of course enjoyable, but it also had a great purpose in allowing us to understand the aromas behind the RedBreast 27 Year Old we would later try.
A mix of brown sugar, crushed walnuts, cinnamon and essential oils including clementine, the bath salts we made tied in well with the day, sampling us with the exotic fruit scent and sweet spiced taste of RedBreast 27.The thought that went into this activity prior to the launch, clearly showed how dedicated the whiskey makers, at Midleton Distillery in County Cork, are to their craft.
From Its Origin to Its Launch 27 Years Later
It is clear, the amount of time and dedication that has been put into Redbreast 27 Year Old, as the idea behind the exceptional liquid
was formed almost thirty years ago, by Midleton Distillery’s Master Blender Billy Leighton, Blender Dave McCabe and the former Head of Maturation Brendan Monks. With bourbon and sherry casks already synonymous with Redbreast, they set their sights on developing their blends further with the addition of the ruby port cask.
The ruby port casks from Douro Valley were a distinct choice for Midleton’s blenders, as the region has produced port for over two thousand years, due to being home to some of the finest caves in Portugal. In addition to this, Kevin O’Gorman who took over as Head of Maturation at Irish Distillers in 2007 explained how his predecessor Brendan set himself the challenge to get something different. Although Irish Distillers had already formed a relationship with the port industry in the 1980s, O’Gorman explained how it was Monk’s contact with Alex Burmester at Sandeman Port which enabled Redbreast to source the ruby casks and ultimately create Redbreast 27 Year Old.
Master Blender Billy Leighton told us: “It gives us great pleasure to reveal the latest member of the Redbreast Irish Whiskey family. In creating this whiskey, Dave and I drew on our experience of working with sherry and other wine casks over the years as we have evolved the range.
This time, we wanted to push the boundaries and yet create an expression that would seamlessly take its place at the head of the family. Nearly three decades in the making, we are incredibly proud to present Redbreast 27 Year Old – a cask strength Redbreast expression that is a joy to behold in each and every sip.”
Throughout the three decades these men have all worked hard on the whiskey, and 27 years later they proudly unveiled the expression at the launch night, giving us an insight into the complex techniques used to create it.
They told us how once they source the ruby port casks, they fill them with pot still distillate before leaving them to mature. The wood inside these casks is medium-toasted and seasoned with red wine for approximately 12 months before ruby Port is added for approximately 12 months again. Following this, the Port is emptied, and the casks are then inspected at Midleton Distillery. Here the Blenders nose the casks to ensure the aromas are perfect for the blend they are creating. Lastly, the casks are filled with Irish Distillers whisky and are left to mature for 27 years.
Typical of the Single pot still style, Redbreast 27 Year Old is made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley and then triple distilled in copper pot stills, , which consequently provides a creamy and spicy character to the blend. The maturation in ruby port casks complements this robust flavour by infusing the spirit with fleshy fruit characteristics and notes of toasted oak.
As a result of this long and carefully constructed process, the final Redbreast 27 Year Old is a special whiskey which upon tasting exceeded all of our expectations with its unique fusion of traditional and Portuguese inspired flavours. Throughout our official tasting at the launch, Master Blender Billy Leighton and Blender Dave McCabe described the tasting notes as:
Nose: A mix of exotic fruits and red berries, complemented by fresh herbs and wood spices. Vanilla sweetness and treacle toffee combine with the nuttiness of toasted oak.
Taste: Incredibly rich in texture with a luxurious combination of ripe stone fruits and summer berries, balanced by the prickle of a hint of chilli oil. Cherry menthol, vanilla and cinnamon sweet spices complement red pepper, nutmeg and toasted oak.
Finish: A satisfyingly long balance of ripe fruit and wood spices, worthy of a journey of nearly three decades.
Blender Dave McCabe summed up Redbreast 27 by saying, “The ruby port barrels contribute notes of mango, pineapple and berry to the robust flavour of Redbreast 27 Year Old, clearly distinguishing it from the previous expressions in the collection, treading a beautiful balance of tradition and innovation.”
Following our tasting of the 27-year-old expression, we were treated to a spectacular three course meal, followed by Redbreast cocktails in the orangery. Once again, both experiences highlighted the Portuguese influence in Redbreast 27 Year Old, with Mediterranean inspired cuisine to complement the flavours in our glasses of the divine spirit. Altogether, our Redbreast experience was a spectacular fusion of culture and flavour and this is represented throughout the distinct 27-year-old whiskey.