Taste Test: Redbreast’s Tasty New Irish Whiskey Will Even Make Bourbon Lovers Smile

Irish whiskey was once the most popular category in America, until Prohibition came along and completely disrupted the whiskey industry on both sides of the Atlantic. In recent years, predictions have been made that Irish whiskey could dominate the domestic market once again—that has not exactly happened, but brands like Jameson and Tullmore DEW continue to be bestsellers, and the number of distilleries in Ireland has grown from four to 40 since 2010. One of the stalwarts of Irish whiskey is Redbreast, a single pot still brand made at the same distillery where Jameson is produced, and the latest release is a tribute to the shared history between America and Ireland.

Single pot still is a distinctly Irish category that has a few rules: The whiskey must be made from a mashbill of malted and unmalted barley (up to 5 percent of other grains are allowed), and distilled in pot stills at one distillery. In this case, the distillery is Midleton just outside of Cork, where Jameson, Powers, Midleton Very Rare, and Green Spot (and the other Spots) are also made. In my opinion, and I’m certainly not alone in this, Redbreast is the best whiskey made at this massive distillery. The whiskey is matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks and released with 12, 15, 21, and 27-year age statements (the latter includes whiskey aged in port pipes).

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Then there are special releases, like the American Oak Series which launched in 2022 with Kentucky Oak Edition. Missouri Oak is the new entry in that series, a single pot still whiskey initially aged in bourbon and sherry barrels like the rest of the range, and then finished for 10 months in virgin charred Missouri oak barrels, made from trees growing in the Ozark Forest, and assembled by Kelvin Cooperage in Kentucky. As you likely know, virgin charred oak barrels are used to mature bourbon, and are then sent to countries like Ireland to be used several times over again to age their whiskey. Virgin oak has a much more powerful influence on whiskey than used oak, for obvious reasons—new oak is going to add a lot more flavor to a spirit than a barrel that has matured whiskey for years or decades before.

That is the case here, although clearly master blender Dave McCabe paid careful attention during the maturation period to make sure the whiskey did not go overboard. This is a big, bold beast of a Redbreast whiskey, with the core identity remaining intact but augmented by a range of different flavors. There is a bit of dusty apple and leather on the nose, with almost a cider-like quality to it. The vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar notes from the bourbon barrels and dried fruit and spice notes from the sherry casks are all there on the palate. But there’s an intensity of flavor wrapped around that, with notes of smoky oak, a touch of tannic bitterness, roasted espresso bean, and some black pepper. This is a really interesting and tasty version of Redbreast that stands out from the rest, and almost reminds me of double-barreled American whiskeys from brands like Woodford Reserve, Kentucky Peerless, or Noble Oak.

Redbreast Missouri Oak Edition is not a subtle whiskey, but that’s not what it was meant to be. This whiskey is supposed to highlight the effects of spending a year in new charred Missouri oak barrels, a cask finish that is assertive but focused in its effect on flavor. Missouri Oak Edition might not be for everyone, but that’s okay because there are so many other excellent Redbreast expressions to choose from.

Score: 90

  • 100 Worth trading your first born for

  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet

  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram

  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market

  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable

  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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