Redbreast 2001 16 Years Old (Master of Malt Exclusive)

Last week Master of Malt released a Redbreast 2001 16 Years Old that was bottled exclusively for them. It matured in a single sherry butt and netted 582 bottles. Hard to explain why, but even at a price of almost £140, I found myself compelled to order a bottle. So I did, and it arrived two days later.

I don’t think I ever reviewed another Redbreast on Words of Whisky, so I’ll give just a tiny bit of background information. Redbreast is one of the brands of whiskey distilled at Midleton Distillery in County Cork in Ireland. It was created not long after John Power & Son, John Jameson & Son and the Cork Distilleries Company decided to bundle their powers as Irish Distillers Group.

The three companies decided to close down their own distilleries, effectively ending one era of Irish whiskey history, and starting another. The New Midleton Distillery (yes, there’s also an old one) produced its first spirit in 1975. For a period of time it was the only whiskey distillery in the Republic of Ireland, until Cooley Distillery opened in 1988.

Redbreast is an Irish pot still whiskey. In the case of this single cask for Master of Malt it means it was triple distilled in those big Midleton pot stills (80.000 litres). More importantly, it was distilled from a mash of both malted and unmalted (or green) barley. Over the past few days, I tasted it twice, and gave it plenty of time (as it was tasted from a freshly opened bottle).

Redbreast 2001 16 Years Old (60,2%, OB for Master of Malt, C#18829)

Nose: High in alcohol, this needs a little time to be fully appreciated, although it is quite fragrant from the get-go. Cocoa powder, dark chocolate, cassis and whispers of menthol and pine needles, as well as lots of dried fruits, like sultanas, dates and figs. A sliver of almond paste and marzipan. Adding water gives it a meatier, yet sweeter appearance.
Taste: Big, powerful and oily. The sherry influence is quite impressive (maybe a tad too much), and reminiscent of a good Aberlour a’bunadh. Notes of cherry, blackcurrants, caramel and espresso. Quite nutty (those almonds again), but also pretty spicy. Let’s add some water. Yeah, that mellows it a bit. More syrupy and creamy, with some chocolate and black pepper.
Finish: Long, syrupy and spicy.

Rating: 89

This actually reminds me of a good batch of Aberlour a’bunadh. Which is a compliment, of course. But… the a’bunadh is a lot cheaper. I don’t have an a’bunadh at the ready, and I’d have to taste them head to head to definitively say this, but right now I might think this is a tad too expensive. Very good, but expensive nonetheless. Available at Master of Malt.

Photo: Master of Malt

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