750 ml | Proof: 80
Redbreast 12 Year
"A delightful single pot still Irish whiskey, Redbreast 12 Year Old is highly praised by Jim Murray and a host of other notable critics. Distilled at the Midleton site from malted and unmalted barley, it’s then matured in a combination of American oak bourbon barrels and Spanish oak Oloroso sherry butts. We can't get enough of this multi-award-winning whiskey."
- Master of Malt, masterofmalt.com
"The first official reference to the brand name 'Redbreast' appears in August 1912, when Gilbeys were selling "Redbreast" J.J. Liqueur Whiskey 12 Years Old, described as one of their "famous" brands. The fact that Redbreast was already a famous brand suggests that this may have been the nickname for Gilbey's Castle "JJ Liqueur" Whiskey 12 Years Old. The name 'Redbreast' itself refers to the bird, Robin Redbreast, and is attributed to the then Chairman of Gilbey's, who was an avid bird-fancier.
W & A Gilbey was founded in 1857 and began in small basement cellars at the corner of Oxford Street and Berwick Street in London. Gilbeys benefitted greatly from the introduction of the off-licence system introduced in 1860 and a commercial agreement between Britain and France in 1861, following which, the British Prime Minister Gladstone reduced duty on French wines from 12 shillings to 2 shillings. Gilbeys were successful from the start and, within a couple of years, had branches in Dublin, Belfast and Edinburgh.
By 1861 Gilbeys had premises at 31 Upper Sackville Street in Dublin (now called O’Connell Street), and were described as wine importers and distillers. They carried stocks of over 140 different wines and held between 700 and 1,000 wine casks under bond.
In 1866, the company moved to new offices and stores at 46 & 47 Upper Sackville Street in the centre of Dublin (now O’Connell Street), which contained their own vaults. The buildings were previously the premises of Sneyd, French and Barton. The premises had its own tasting room and a small still for determining the alcoholic strength of wines and spirits. Gilbeys had their own patented bottle cases which could be easily stacked, a state of the art bottle washing machine and by this time, wax seals were replaced with their patented capsule seal. Gilbeys sold all their wines and spirits directly to consumers under their own distinctive brand.
Initially famous for their wines, spirits were becoming a greater part of Gilbey’s business. By 1874, Gilbeys held a stock in bond of over 300,000 gallons of whiskey sourced from “the most celebrated Dublin Distilleries”. The proprietary brand at this time was Gilbey’s Castle Whiskey. They sold three main brands Castle U P Irish Whiskey 33% under proof (u.p.), Castle U V Irish Whiskey 17% u.p. and Castle D O Irish Whiskey at full proof strength.
At this point Gilbey’s held the largest stocks of Irish whiskey, outside of the distilleries themselves, of any company in the world. In 1875 they were selling 83,000 cases of Irish whiskey compared with only 38,000 of Scotch, a reflection of the pre-eminence of Irish Whiskey at the time.
In 1903, Gilbey’s whiskey brands included Castle Grand JJ Six Years Old and Castle Liqueur JJ Ten Years Old (JJ standing for John Jameson), both bearing the signature of John Jameson & Son. The following year, John Jameson & Son’s Castle “JJ Liqueur” Whiskey 12 Years Old, was being marketed at 4 shillings and 6 pence in a bottle, similar in shape, and bearing the red and white label seen on Redbreast bottlings up until the 1960s. Gilbey’s sold whiskey under the ‘Castle’ brand until at least the late 1930s.
An advertisement in 1933 reads: “Redbreast Liqueur Whiskey at your service. You could not wish for a stauncher truer friend. Always ready to help. Refreshing you through the sultry, thirst making, days of summer, shielding you from the piercing winds and driving rains of winter, and in every season proving itself a most welcome and peace-bringing nightcap.” They don't make advertising like they used to.
In the mid 1960s, Redbreast was being bottled annually in batches of approximately 4,000 gallons (18,000 litres) to satisfy a steady demand for the brand. Minor changes to the bottle occurred throughout the 1960s including, from 1964, an age statement appeared on the foil cap seal. The familiar Redbreast white label with red writing remained largely unchanged until at least 1972.
The last bottling of Redbreast under the Gilbey's banner occurred in 1985. In 1986 Gilbey's, who had long since stopped maturing Redbreast in their vaults in Harcourt Street, entered into an agreement to sell the brand name to Irish Distillers.
In December 1991, Redbreast was re-introduced by Irish Distillers Limited, after an absence of almost 10 years. The veritable pot still whiskey was given a thorough makeover and benefitted from Irish Distiller's revamped wood programme. The flawless pot still distillate from Midleton Distillery was now maturing in only the finest sherry and bourbon casks. Whiskey writer Michael Jackson said "IDG relaunched Redbreast as a 12 year old. This is traditional Irish pot-still at its richest: well matured and with a generous slug of sherry. For some lovers of this style, Redbreast approaches perfection."
In 2005, the seminal Redbreast 15 is released. This bottling was produced for long-time champion and French distributor of Redbreast, La Maison du Whiskey, Paris, as part of their 50th Anniversary celebrations. The whiskey, which is comprised of a slightly different formulation to the venerable 12 year old, was bottled at 46% abv (alcohol by volume) and was non chill filtered. The whiskey is an instant hit and in the following year, was chosen by Jim Murray as the Whisky Bible 'Irish Whiskey of the Year'." - Redbreast Heritage