Redbreast is one of those brands that get a lot of love from whiskey aficionados. Does the iconic Irish whiskey deserve the adoration? It’s certainly worth investigating — one bottle at a time. So we decided to taste the full Redbreast line to find out for ourselves.
Redbreast certainly isn’t the cheapest Irish whiskey on the market. Their 27-year-old expression retails for €500 ($610) on the brand’s own webpage. That’s not a secondary market markup, that’s just the price. The cheapest bottle on this list is around $70 in the U.S. And since the price varies pretty widely on down the line, it was impossible not to let price be a factor in our rankings.
How much did the price weigh on how we rated each Redbreast expression? A fair bit, but you’ll have to read on to see exactly how that manifested.
6. Redbreast 27 Year Old
Average Price: $530
This whiskey is a blend of triple distilled pot still whiskey (that’s an Irish whiskey that’s made from both malted and unmalted barley). The juices are left to rest for 27 years in ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and ex-port casks, literally untouched for all those years. Finally, the juice is blended into this masterpiece bottle.
There’s a matrix of tropical bananas and pineapple next to sweet orange and spicy orange zest with tart red berries popping in. The whole nose is underpinned by a buttery/rich toffee poured over walnuts served inside a soft cedar box. That fruitiness narrows into cherry sweetness with a plummy chew as the cedar stays afloat amongst the toffee and subtle notes of vanilla. Those fruits and wood marry on the long and very velvety finish.
It’s really hard to justify ever spending $500 or more for a single bottle of whiskey. But goddamn it if this bottle doesn’t tempt us to do just that. That said, this landed last because of how spendy it is. The other five bottles on this list are going to give you a similarly great drinking experience at a much more manageable price tag.
5. Redbreast 12 Year Old
Average Price: $66
This is Redbreast’s entry point whiskey. The juice is a traditional triple distilled pot still whiskey that’s then aged in American and Spanish oak, which formerly held bourbon and sherry respectively. After 12 years, the juice is blended and proofed with County Cork’s soft spring water before bottling.
There’s a nice tobacco spice to the nose that meets the sherry fruitiness and oak notes. The palate builds on those notes with a more Christmas spice, dried fruits, fatty nuts, a bit of maltiness, and a lingering sense of toasted oak. The end is long but doesn’t overstay its welcome as the spices, fruit, and oak fade away.
This is a great dram to help you embark on a deeper journey into Irish whiskey. We’d also argue this makes for a solid mixer if you’re looking to slant your old fashioned or Manhattan game towards the Emerald Isle.
4. Redbreast 21 Year Old
Average Price: $300
This juice is the classic single pot still triple distilled Irish whiskey. It spends 21 years maturing in ex-bourbon and first-fill sherry casks before it’s blended, proofed, and bottled.
Imagine a fruit cake filled with candied tropical fruits, nuts, dried berries, and mild Christmas spices. That nuttiness leads towards a soft vanilla pod and hints of cedar with light touches of toffee sweetness. The cedar carries on, along with the spices and fruit, as the sip slowly fades out, leaving you with a velvet mouthfeel that’s just lovely.
Yes, this is expensive but damn if it isn’t f*cking delicious. This is a bottle we could see shelling out for on a very special occasion.
In a perfect world, it would land closer to $150 rather than $300.
3. Redbreast Lustau
Average Price: $75
This dram really stands out amongst the line. The tripled distilled pot still juice is matured only in casks from Bodega Lustau in Spain. Their sherried oak brings about a dialed-in depth to the whiskey that really helps elevate the Irish juice.
There’s a chewy fruitiness up top with notes of figs and dates next to nutty marzipan and … maybe … garam masala. The palate is bold with sherry oak next to nuttiness and hefty fruits that shine brightly next to a slight cedar and spicy tobacco underpinning. That spice and fruit merge on the long end as the soft wood helps to create a svelte finish that lingers just the right amount of time.
It was really hard to place this on the list. It’s really special. But in that, it feels almost like a different whiskey. Still, this is a phenomenon in a glass and really blooms with a little water or a single rock.
2. Redbreast 12 Cask Strength
Average Price: $88
This is a testament to the magic that can happen when a cask hits just the right marks. This is the standard 12-year expression — single pot still, triple distilled, and ex-bourbon/ex-sherry maturation — that’s blended and bottled unfiltered and uncut.
It’s the purest expression of the cask in the bottle.
Dried tropical fruit, stone fruit, and berries come through on the nose with a hint of cedar next to a slight cinnamon-forward spice powder. Those fruits and spice mix into a Christmas cake with a bit of malt next to that wood while vanilla pokes in with a rich and creamy texture. The fruit, oak, and spice marry on the long and warming end as the fade brings a buzzing to your senses.
This sort of hits on the best tastes of the line while also being a big, flavor-forward dram. It’s also a really solid cocktail mixer thanks to that high ABV. If you’re going to sip, make sure to add a little water or ice cube to let it fully bloom in the glass.
1. Redbreast 15 Year Old
Average Price: $105
This expression utilizes classic Redbreast — triple distilling, ex-bourbon, and ex-sherry, etc. — that’s aged for 15 years before blending, proofing, and bottling. The result is one of the most accessible and delicious whiskeys around.
Bright red berries mingle with hints of soft yet spicy woods and a hint of citrus oils on the nose. The palate calms down as the fruit becomes fairly chewy-yet-sweet (think dates and prunes) with a hint of nuttiness next to a cedar box full of spiced vanilla toffees. The whole sip combines on the end with the fruit, wood, spice, and sweetness bringing about a sip of pure velvet that lasts just the right amount of time, leaving you needing more.
This hits every mark for the brand. It’s not cheap but not crazy expensive. It’s astoundingly delicious and easy to drink. It really feels like the pinnacle of what Midleton Distillery down in County Cork is aiming for.
Yes, the price is high. But there are $100 bottles of bourbon that don’t stand up to the well-rounded depths and joys provided by this whiskey.