Monday, 30 January 2017

Redbreast - Lustau - Review

Towards the end of 2016 Midleton distillery, once again, flexed its muscles as we were all treated to another new release from those people behind Redbreast.

Over the last few years, compared to the other established Irish distilleries, namely Bushmills and Cooley, we have been treated to a number of new offerings coming out of Midleton distillery and, as I'm sure you may have noticed, the Redbreast name has been popping frequently up amongst these new expressions.

In 2013 we had the Redbreast 21 year old, in 2015 we had the limited edition Redbreast "Mano a Lámh" and earlier this year we had a Celtic Whiskey Shop exclusive in the form of a Redbreast 1999 single cask.

Each of these had their own unique selling point yet people may have thought the 21 year old to be a little bit too expensive for their wallets, the "Mano a Lámh" a little bit too limited to get hold of and the 1999 single cask a little bit too much of a combination of the previous two.

Moving forward to present day and now Redbreast have released a new, permanent expression that will be widely available to all.

Redbreast "Lustau" is a single pot still Irish whiskey that has been finished in hand selected, first-fill sherry butts, with the aim of celebrating the iconic sherry influence found throughout the Redbreast range.

Matured initially in a combination of ex-Bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks, for about 9-12 years, Redbreast "Lustau" has been wholly finished for one year in sherry butts from the Spanish sherry house "Bodegas Lustau" and has come about a result of the long standing relationship between the bodega and the distillery in Midleton.

Redbreast "Lusatu" has been bottled at 46% ABV, without chill-filtration and at a recommended price point of £55.

Now while you may be thinking this is a little steep for a NAS whiskey, I'd like to firstly say that you may be able to get this a little cheaper if you shop around and, secondly, I'd like to reiterate the mention of an initial maturation of 9-12 years. 

I feel that the only reason they are leaving an age statement off the bottle is that they may need to dip a little younger, or maybe even a little older, in the future, but what can be guaranteed is that the team behind the release will always aim to ensure that the quality shall remain the same.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Interesting mix of older sherry cask and fresh red fruits.  The slightly older notes have a nice, deep, dried fruit complexity with Christmas cake and winter spices.  The fresher notes, however, keep the heavier feel in check with touches of strawberry jam, and stewed strawberries with cream.  I know the stewed element may not seem so fresh but when up against the likes of deep raisin you see where I'm coming from.  The pot still distillate is evident and seems like it's gently wrapped in a red berry coating.  The spice comes through showing that the spirit has not lost its way and the younger notes give the overall mouth-feel a nice edge to it.  A little touch of oaky vanilla lies beneath the strawberries and cream element and I have to say it's all very inviting.

Palate - Again a fantastic mix with the fresher elements appearing first.  Dark berry coulis and jam is followed by the rich fruit cake of the longer sherry maturation.  Spicy black pepper, that's almost dry red chilli in nature, reminds you of the style of whiskey you're enjoying and it brings the whole glass together.  Delicious.

Finish - As the alcohol dies down you are left with juicy red fruits and a lasting kick of dry oak spice.  This all leaves you with the suggestion to pour another glass.

Overall this is another fantastic addition to the Redbreast range.  It may not be as smooth as the 12 year old, but it's smooth enough.  It may not be as heavy hitting as the "Mano a Lámh", but it hits all the right notes whilst keeping them restrained through careful finishing in a fresh sherry cask. 

I can easily see this becoming a firm favourite within the Redbreast range.

As with the Powers "Three Swallow", it's great to see that Midleton are able to move effortlessly into the release of NAS expressions without reducing the quality we've grown to love.  Long may these releases continue.

Until next time,



Sunday, 15 January 2017

Echlinville - Port Morant Rum Finish - Preview / Review - 1 year on

Last year I brought you all a preview / review of something very special that Echlinville Distillery are currently working on.  This was their single malt that is currently being finished in a Port Morant rum casks.  For anyone wishing to see the original update, along with tasting notes from last year, you can do so by clicking here.

For those of you that want to cut straight to the chase I shall recap.

In 2015 Echlinville acquired some 14yo whiskey, my guess is that it may be from Cooley, and set about placing it into some very interesting casks.  Echlinville pulled out all the stops and managed to get their hands on rum casks from the exclusive Port Morant distillery in Guyana.

The casks, that held the flavoursome rum for many years, are now transferring the aged flavours onto this Irish whiskey.

The first sample I received was after the whiskey had only been in the casks for a few weeks and the most recent sample I received was just over a year later, making this now firmly in the 15yo category.

For information the first sample I received was at 50% ABV, and this most recent sample was straight from the cask, but it remains to be seen what strength the final release shall come out at. 

As with the first review I'd just like to highlight that any notes listed below should be slightly different to the final release but, as you will see, I doubt there will much to worry about, with regards how the final release should taste.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Initially heavy with fresh green apple but this quickly moves into smooth vanilla wood, rum and raisin ice cream and even banana ice cream.  The fruit flavours are rich and intense, no doubt brought on by the cask strength nature of the alcohol, yet the smooth oak encompasses them beautifully.  Some deeper notes lurk in here also with stewed orange and a little hint of raspberry.  The balance between spirit, wood and rum influence is very nice indeed.  As the dram opens up the fruit flavours begin to dominate with further banana in the form of foam banana sweets and a little banoffee pie.  There's not much spice on the nose and I feel this may be the wood having a nice restraining effect.  Right at the end there's also a little touch of white grape.  With water the fruit is intensified and the oak vanilla becomes more prominent.

Palate - Intense, dry arrival and a lovely balance of fruit and oak spice.  The fruit comes in with more fresh green apple, banana cream, and more rum and raisin ice cream.  We now also have spice in the form of prickly black pepper which brings a nice extra dimension.  The influence bestowed upon this whiskey, by the cask, is big, bold and pretty darn good.  The oak has brought a lip smacking dryness that arrives from the first sip and lingers long after the dram is finished.  The intensity of the alcohol brings a hint of grappa which ties in with the white grape picked up on the nose.  With water the fruit is again softened down.

Finish - Medium length, dry yet juicy and extremely delicious.

Overall this is a seriously good Irish fruit bomb of a whiskey.  This is turning into the beast I had hoped it would become nearly a year ago.

The fruit notes are deep, rich and intense.  I feel that this whiskey is nearly ready to be taken from the cask and bottled for everyone to enjoy. 

When it is released I shall be interested to see what strength Echlinville end up choosing for the final bottling.  The two samples I have tasted are probably both higher in ABV, than how the final product shall be presented, but I hope they keep the strength high to show off all the rich ,intense goodness that is packed into this whiskey.

Echlinville are certainly moving from strength to strength, and gaining a lot of admirers on the way, and I have no doubt that once they release this Port Morant finished whiskey they will gain a hell of a lot more.

Until next time,