Tag Archives: Redbreast

Drinking in Charleston

One of the best things about Atlanta is how easy it is to get to great vacation destinations from here. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is arguable the busiest in the country and you can fly to almost anywhere from here. Another attraction is the central location in the south. I took advantage of this last weekend and drove over to Charleston, South Carolina with my wife and friends, Sam and Sandra.

My wife’s mother is from Charleston and our friends have been there many times, however it was my first visit. Charleston is a wonderful old southern town. It’s beautiful. The people are friendly. There are plenty of great things to see, do, and eat. We did all of those and packed as much fun into a three day weekend as we could. But what about drinking?

For a beer lover there’s plenty to enjoy. Irish pubs populate a number of streets in Charleston with good selections. The locally made Palmetto Amber is a nice one if you want to go local. Whiskey can be a bit more fickle. There are a lot of 4J bars around the city but there is hope. We found a few bastions of whiskey in the arid sea of beer and cocktails!

First, there are those with small but well chosen selections. These tended to be in the bars of restaurants. High Cotton on East Bay Street and Pearlz Oyster Bar jumped first to mind. Both have great food (High Cotton was hands down the best meal I had in Charleston) and they have a small but well selected whiskey menu.

Second, there is the multitude of Irish pubs all over Charleston. Most are big on beer, light on whiskey. When you go into Tommy Condon’s over on Church St. it looks much the same. However, the secret is to ask what they’ve got behind the bar. Tommy Condon’s has a very respectable selection of Irish whiskey but you can’t see it. It includes favorites from Powers, Paddy’s, Jameson, and even Redbreast. Just ask your server or bartender.

Lastly, if you want to seriously get your drink on there are only two places I found. There is Club Havana on Meeting St. and Husk on Queen St. Husk has a fantastic selection of bourbon, rye, and American whiskey but you will pay for it. They have far and away the highest markup on their liquor. You’ve been warned. For everything else there’s Club Havana. They have a very nice selection of scotch, bourbon, and rums at not astronomical prices. They sit above a Tinder Box and you can bring up the cigars you buy downstairs and smoke up in the bar and lounge. Colleen at the bar was a great bartender and if you want to adventure out beyond the whiskey, give their rum flight a try. It’s a really cool place I wish we had in Atlanta.

That’s my Charleston report. I had a great time and if you go you probably will too.

Drink wisely my friends,

Richard

Event Notice: Irish Whiskey Tasting at Mac McGee’s

Tuesday, October 19th Mac McGee’s will be hosting a tasting of four 12 year old Irish Whiskeys. The price $20, that’s 48 years of whiskey for $20! Here are the details:

Time: 7:00PM on Tuesday, October 19th
Place: Mac McGee’s Irish Pub, 111 Sycamore St, Decatur, GA 30030
Price: $20
Pour: Tullamore Dew 12, Powers 12, Redbreast 12, Knappogue Castle 12
Contact: RSVP at 404-377-8050

Drink Wisely My Friends,

Richard

Póg mo thóin and call me Paddy!

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I lead a tasting of Irish whiskeys last weekend.  Planning an event like this turned out more difficult than I expected.  With tasting classes on rye, bourbon, and single malt Scotch under my belt, I thought Irish would be a breeze.  There are only four distilleries to choose from after all.  Ah, there’s the rub.  Four distilleries, but dozens of styles and expressions.  How do I choose?  What makes something uniquely “Irish?”  John Hansell posed this very question on WDJK last week.  I’ll let you read through what his readers had to say.  Ultimately, it was decided that Irish whiskey is spirit distilled from grain and aged in oak for a minimum of three years within the confines of either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.  That is quite a broad definition to be sure.  All that you’ve heard about triple distillation, no peat, and pot still* are tradition not law.  Many people say that Cooley completely changed the game.  That’s true, but Midleton produces quite a variety of whiskeys themselves (pure pot stills, blends with and without pot still components, single malts, etc.)  Even the folks at Bushmills don’t stick to the “traditional” recipe of pot still + single malt = blend.  This was troubling because I wanted to pick very “Irish” whiskeys, while staying away from Bushmills White Label and stock standard Jameson.  You can see why I had difficulty coming up with a tasting menu.  With Richard’s help, here’s what I ended up with:

Bushmills 10yo Single Malt (Bushmills) – Using Irish barley, triple distilled and aged for at least 10 years in “mostly bourbon casks,” this whiskey felt very “Scotch-y” to many of us.  I was particularly reminded of Auchentoshen.

Redbreast 12yo (Midleton) – Arguably the most uniquely Irish selection, Redbreast is one of a very few pure pot still whiskeys commercially available.  Unanimously the favorite of the tasting, this dram was praised it’s unique character and liveliness.

Paddy Old Irish Whiskey (Midleton) – A favorite among the Irish in the audience, Paddy surprised many of us.  Many an Irishman cut his whiskey teeth on this one.  Paddy is composed of a high percentage of single malt and a small amount of pot still.  This gives it a malty, caramel character with just a few hints of the green barley poking trough.  Personally, I was impressed with the complexity this dram offers for the value ($35 for a liter).  Careful though, this one has a somewhat hot finish that turned some people off.

Tullamore Dew Blended Irish Whiskey (Midleton) – Tullamore Dew is a blend of single malt, pot still, and grain alcohol.  It is one of the smoothest whiskeys around.  Smooth, but not all that complex.  Those of us who grew up with it have a fondness for this easy drinking dram, but the rest of group wanted something a little more aggressive.

Greenore Single Grain Whiskey (Cooley) – Made completely out of corn, double distilled and aged in bourbon casks for eight years, its no surprise that Greenore tastes very much like bourbon.  I am particularly remind of some of the micro-distilled bourbons (I’m looking at you Tuthilltown).  Several attendees described this as fermented corn flakes.  It was kind of a toss up as to who thought that was a good thing.  I enjoyed it for what it was, but it’s not very Irish to taste like bourbon.

Connemara Peated (Cooley) – Ah, our only peated whiskey.  Some have called Cooley a Scotch distillery that happens to be in Ireland.  This dram is the source of that statement.  I feel the peat in this dram is overstated, creating a somewhat boring peat monster.  There is none of the complexity you will find in its Scottish cousins.  For the group, the peat freaks were mostly with me and the peat haters disliked this one immensely.

There you are, three of four distilleries represented (can’t get actual Kilbeggan yet as far as I know).  I predicted that everyone would fall in love with Redbreast and I was right.  I have yet to find someone who does not enjoy it.  The second most popular was harder to gauge.  I would say there was a pretty even spread.  I don’t know if we learned anything about Irish whiskey, but we did have a good time.

*Pot still whiskey is whiskey produced in a copper pot still from a mash of both green (unmalted) and malted barley.

-Matt

Redbreast 12 Year Old

Redbreast Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey Aged 12 Years
$40 – $50
40% ABV/ 80 Proof
Widely available

What the Distillery Says:
Unique among Whiskeys, Redbreast is a ‘single’, unblended, Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey which has been Triple Distilled and Matured in Oak Casks for not less than Twelve Years. The uncompromising dedication to authenticity and Quality gives Redbreast a traditional smooth Mellow Character and a Taste which is Full Flavored and assertive but over Robust.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Fresh cut grass, wildflowers, orange blossom, citrus zest, and toffee.
Palate: Delicate and flavorful. Modest sweetness that quickly fades to delicate woody notes. Very well balanced and pleasant.
Finish: Smooth and oily with hints of oak and floral sweetness.
Comments: This is Irish whiskey at it’s finest. Redbreast has long been my personal favorite for Irish. It marries triple distillation smoothness with the unique character of pure pot stilled whiskey. This is Irish whiskey in the classic traditional sense and what other Irish should aspire to. On top of all that it is a solid value for any whiskey drinker.
Rating: Must Buy, Great Value

What Matt Says:
Nose: Fresh cut grass, orange zest, caramel, seasoned oak, and vaguely floral notes dominate
Palate: Lightly sweet, woody and grassy. If other whiskeys were cow cheese, this would be goat cheese. There are also some green apple notes. This dram is somehow crisp and soft at the same time.
Finish: Smooth as oiled silk.
Comments: What makes a pure pot still whiskey unique is that the mash bill is created of both malted and unmalted barley. This gives the whiskey a very fresh and lively character. After all these years, this is still my favorite Irish whiskey. I return to it often. When I started drinking Redbreast, it was not available in the US. Now, you can get it just about anywhere. I’m afraid, with the prices in New York ($55 or more), I can’t recommend this as a “Great Value” anymore. That’s not saying that it’s not worth price, just that it’s not a secret steal anymore.
Rating: Must Buy

Overall Rating: Must Buy

New U.S. Releases – December ’09

Wow, it’s already the 7th of January and I’ve haven’t posted the summary of new whiskies coming stateside that we heard about in December! Sorry everyone. I’ve been under the weather lately. Here’s what we heard about.

Tomintoul 33 Year Old
Timeframe: 2010, no additional details yet
ABV: 43%
Price: $290
This will be replacing the current 27 Year Old Tomintoul.

Powers 12 Year Old
Timeframe: February 2010
ABV: 40%
Price: TBD
The standard Powers isn’t too bad so I can’t wait to see what this aged beauty will taste like.

Paddy’s Irish Whiskey
Timeframe: By St. Patrick’s Day
ABV: 40%
Price: TBD
The word on the street is that a very limited amount of Paddy’s will be coming stateside in advance of St. Patrick’s Day this year. If you want to try it you better grab it if you see it. And grab one for me too!

Redbreast 15 Year Old Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey
Timeframe: Fall 2010
ABV: 40%
Price: TBD
I almost passed out when I heard about this. Redbreast is an all time Apostle favorite (Matt, why haven’t we reviewed it yet?) and the mythical 15 Year Old was something that was produced only as a limited release a few years back but never made it across the pond. It was rumored to be amazing. Now it’s going into regular production and coming here. I’m as giddy as a school girl.

December was another light month for release news but we heard some good things on the Irish front. As always, if you heard about something that we didn’t please let me know.

Drink wisely my friends,

Richard