Redbreast (whiskey)

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Redbreast Whiskey Logo.jpg
Type Single pot still whiskey

Irish Distillers

(originally Gilbeys)
Country of origin Ireland
Introduced Circa. 1903
Variants 12-year-old, 12-year-old cask strength, 15-year-old, 21-year-old

Redbreast is a brand of single pot still Irish Whiskey produced by Irish Distillers. It was originally produced by Gilbey's, a Dublin spirits merchants using distillate sourced from Jameson's Bow Street Distillery.[1] However, in the 1980s, the brand was purchased by Irish Distillers, the producers of Jameson Irish whiskey. It is the largest selling single pot still Irish whiskey in the world.[2]

Redbreast 21 Year Old was named Second Finest Whiskey in the World in Jim Murray's 2018 Whisky Bible, with a score of 97/100. Murray remarked that Redbreast 21 was "Amongst the world’s truly great whiskies and near blue print for the perfect pot still Irish Whiskey". [3][4]

As of 2018, there are five variants are available: [5]

  • Redbreast 12 year old
  • Redbreast Lustau edition (matured for its final year in Bodegas Lustau sherry casks)
  • Redbreast 12 Cask Strength
  • Redbreast 15 year old
  • Redbreast 21 year old


W & A Gilbey was founded in London in 1857, and by 1861 had opened a branch on what is now O'Connell Street in Dublin.[1]

At the time, it was customary for distilleries to sell distillate to wine merchants or "bonders", who having ample supply of casks through the importation of fortified wines, would mature the whiskey themselves under bond.[2] By the 1870s, Gilbey's then described as a "wine importer and distiller", had over 300,000 gallons of whiskey from Dublin distilleries in stock under bond, and was selling whiskey to consumers under its own labels.[1] These whiskeys were aged for at least six years in Gilbey's own sherry casks at its bonded warehouses on Dublin's Harcourt Street.[1]

By 1903, a whiskey known as John Jameson & Son’s Castle “JJ Liqueur” Whiskey 12 Years Old was being marketed in a bottle of similar shape and markings to those used for subsequent bottlings of Redbreast.[1] This whiskey was produced using distillate sourced from the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin, the home of Jameson whiskey.[1] Although this whiskey was likely the forerunner of Redbreast, the first official mention of "Redbreast" only dates from 1912, when Gilbey's referred to the sale of "Redbreast" J.J. Liqueur Whiskey 12 Years Old whiskey. "Redbreast" being a nickname given to one of their whiskeys by Gilbey's then chairman, an avid birdwatcher, in reference to the Robin Redbreast.[1]

In the 1968, Irish Distillers opted to phase out the supply of bonded whiskey to merchants such as Gilbey's.[6] This threatened the future of the whiskey brand, as Irish Distillers controlled all of the whiskey distilleries in operation in Ireland at that point. However, following pleas from Gilbey's, Irish Distillers agreed to continue to supply distillate for the production of Redbreast.[6]

In 1971, Irish Distillers chose to close all of its Dublin distilleries (including Bow Street), and to consolidate production at the New Midleton Distillery, a purpose-built facility in County Cork. As a result, production of Redbreast whiskey moved from Dublin to Cork.

In 1985, Gilbey's ceased production of Redbreast, and in 1986 entered into an agreement to sell the brand to Irish Distillers.[1]

The brand was subsequently relaunched by Irish Distillers in 1991 after several years of absence from the market. Initially launched as a standalone twelve year old,[6] Redbreast has since been released in 15-year old, 21-year old and other variants.

Bottle of 12-year old Redbreast


Initially relaunched in 1991, as a 12 year old, several variants have come to market in recent years, including:

  • Redbreast 12 year old, 40% ABV, aged in Olorosso sherry casks and some ex-Bourbon barrels[7]
  • Redbreast Lustau edition, 46% ABV, aged for 9 to 12 years in traditional Bourbon and sherry casks before being finished for one year in first fill sherry butts seasoned with Bodegas Lustau sherry[8]
  • Redbreast 12 year old cask strength, 57.2% ABV, aged in first fill Olorosso sherry casks, non-chill filtered[2]
  • Redbreast 15 year old, 46% ABV, aged in Olorosso sherry and Bourbon casks[1]
  • Redbreast 21 year old, 46% ABV, aged in ex-bourbon and first fill Olorosso sherry casks[9]

Limited editions, no longer in production, but still available in specialist retailers as of 2016 include:

  • Redbreast Mano a Lámh, 46% ABV, aged solely in ex-Olorsso sherry butts, non-chill filtered[10]
  • Redbreast 12 year old 1970s, 40% ABV, a rare version bottled in the 1970s [11]
  • Redbreast 1999 single cask, 58.5% ABV, aged in sherry casks, the first single cask Redbreast release[12]
  • Redbreast 12 Year Old Gilbeys 1/2 Bottle, 40% ABV, a rare version likely bottled in the 1960s[13]


The Redbreast whiskey variations have won several wards in recent years.[1]

Notably, Jim Murray, the whiskey writer and author of the Whisky Bible has rated several variations of Redbreast highly, for instance:

  • In 2018, Redbreast 21-year old was named Second Best Whiskey in the World, Best Irish Whiskey, and Best Irish Pot Still Whiskey. This was the highest placing of any Irish Whiskey in Murray's "Whisky Bible".[4]
  • In 2017, Redbreast 21-year old was proclaimed both Irish Whiskey of the Year and Irish Pot Still of the Year [14]
  • In 2010, Redbreast 12-year old was proclaimed Irish Whiskey of the Year [15]
  • In 2007, Redbreast 15-year old was proclaimed Irish Whiskey of the Year [1]

In addition, Redbreast 12-year old and Redbreast Mano a Lámh were both rated a top-ten whiskey buys in John Hansell's Buyer's Guide.[16]


Redbreast is one of a handful of single pot still whiskeys in existence today, and one of only two to have been produced almost continuously since the early 1900s (the other being Green Spot).[17] Although once the most popular style of whiskey consumed in the world, pot still whiskey fell out of favour in the 20th century, in part due to the rise of cheaper, less intense blended whiskeys.[17] Therefore, as a result of falling demand, most Irish whiskeys were either reformulated as blends or discontinued.

Single pot still whiskeys, which are historically unique to Ireland, are similar to single malts in that they are produced solely from pot still distillate.[17] However, in contrast to malts which only use malted barley in the mash, single pot still whiskeys are produced from a mixed mash which contains both malted and unmalted barley.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Redbreast". Single Pot Still. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "Redbreast 12 cask strength". Jameson Whiskey. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  3. ^ "Jim Murray crowns Redbreast 21 YO and Jameson Best Irish Whiskeys of the Year". Pernod Ricard. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
  4. ^ a b "Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2018!". 12 October 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
  5. ^ "The Redbreast Range". Redbreast Whiskey. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
  6. ^ a b c Mulryan, Peter (2002). The Whiskeys of Ireland. Dublin, Ireland: O'Brien Press. p. 151. ISBN 0-86278-751-3. 
  7. ^ "Redbreast 12 Year Old Single Pot Still". Celtic Whiskey Shop. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
  8. ^ "Redbreast Lustau Edition". Jameson Whiskey. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
  9. ^ "Redbreast 21 Year Old Single Pot Still". Celtic Whiskey Shop. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
  10. ^ McNamara, Stuart. "Redbreast Mano A Lámh Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Review". IrishWhiskey.Com. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  11. ^ "Redbreast 12 Year Old 1970s". Celtic Whiskey Shop. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
  12. ^ "Redbreast 1999 Single Cask #30088". Celtic Whiskey Shop. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
  13. ^ "Redbreast 12 Year Old Gilbeys 1/2 Bottle". Celtic Whiskey Shop. Retrieved 20 February 2018. 
  14. ^ "Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2017 - The Winners". The Whisky Exchange. 17 October 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  15. ^ "Jim Murray's 2010 World Whisky Awards". Whisky Intelligence. 4 October 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  16. ^ "The 10 Highest-Rated Whiskies of the Summer Issue". Whisky Advocate. 11 May 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  17. ^ a b c O'Connor, Fionnán (2015). A Glass Apart: Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey. Images Publishing. ISBN 9781864705492. 
  18. ^ "Technical file setting out the specifications with which Irish Whiskey / Uisce Beatha Eireannach / Irish Whisky must comply" (PDF). Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine. October 2014. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 

External links[edit]