Monday, October 5, 2020

Redbreast 12-Year-Old Irish Whiskey - Sherry Barrel vs Bourbon Barrel

The highly acclaimed Redbreast 12-Year-Old Irish Whiskey is matured in a combination of Bourbon seasoned American Oak barrels and Oloroso Sherry seasoned Spanish oak butts that provide complex flavors to this light-colored whiskey. The whiskey starts as locally grown barley from the Munster province in southwestern Ireland. The mash bill includes both malted and unmalted barley with the traditional malting process imparting sweetness as the starch is more accessible to the yeast during fermentation. On the other hand, the unmalted barley provides a silky and creamy mouthfeel plus a dash of spice. Once the mash is cooked and fermented, the wort is triple distilled in copper pot stills that increase the alcohol content from 40% after the first run to 85% after the third.  Copper stills are preferred since they conduct heat efficiently, and more importantly, the copper reacts with volatile sulfur compounds to form copper sulfate which remains behind in the still. Furthermore, the large pot stills used at the Midleton Distillery allows for a large volume of heavier congeners to "reflux" back into the still producing a lighter style and higher strength spirit.

This whiskey is then moved into either used sherry or bourbon barrels. The sherry butts -- standard size casks used for maturing sherry -- are manufactured by hand at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, and are made from European oak harvested in Galicia, Spain. Prior to being shipping to Ireland, the casks hold sherry wine for two years. The bourbon barrels are made from American white oak that were manufactured in Kentucky and held bourbon whiskey for a period of 3 or 4 years prior to being shipped to Ireland. The inner linings of both types of casks allow the Irish whiskey to seep in during maturation, and when it withdraws in the cooler winter months the whiskey takes with it the spectrum of either sherry or bourbon flavors hidden within. These characters include nuts and dried fruits from the sherry and vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon from the bourbon. After a minimum of 12 years, and usually longer, the whiskeys are blended and the final Redbreast 12-Year-Old Irish Whiskey is excellent - hints of all these flavors within a lightly bodied sipping whiskey. Sláinte. 

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