Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard has just announced the launch of Redbreast Mano a Lámh, the first expression in the Redbreast Irish Whiskey range to be matured solely in ex-oloroso sherry butts. This special Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish whiskey is the latest release from the Midleton Distillery as it aims to satisfy the increasing global demand for new and original Single Pot Still Irish whiskeys.
Red Breast Mano a Lámh Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey – Background
Mano a Lámh, meaning ‘hand in hand’ in Spanish and Irish respectively, represents the relationship and passion between the Midleton Distillery and the collective of artisans in Spain, which has crafted the Midleton Distillery’s sherry butts for more than 20 years.
Specially commissioned for the Midleton Distillery, oak is felled in the forests of Galicia, north-west Spain, and then crafted and seasoned by some of the country’s most prestigious family businesses. The Antonio Páez Lobato Bodega in the South, who have a long family connection with Midleton Distillery, crafts the oak into sherry casks, which are then seasoned with Oloroso sherry for two years at the prestigious Páez Morilla Bodega in the nearby sherry capital of the world, Jerez.
The freshly seasoned sherry butts are then shipped promptly, during the cooler winter months, to the Midleton Distillery where they are then filled with new make pot still whiskeys.
What many new whiskey drinkers may not be aware of is that when whiskey first emerges from the big copper pot stills in the distillery, it is transparent in colour, high in alcohol content and has very robust flavours and aromas derived from the ingredients and the distillation process. Think of it as a young, unbroken thoroughbred racehorse. And if the Master Distiller equates to the Race Horse Breeder, then the Master Blender and Master of Maturation are the Race Horse Trainer and Racing Yard Manager respectively who break in and train up the young whiskey to Thoroughbred standard.
Red Breast Mano a Lámh Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey – Maturation
Redbreast is a single Pot Still Whiskey which means that is made from Pot Still Spirit from just a single distillery. Normally Redbreast is a blend of Midleton Pot Still whiskeys, each of which has been matured for 12, 15 or 21 years in either Olorosso Butts or ex Bourbon Oak Casks from Kentucky before being carefully blended together to form Redbreast Single Pot Still Whiskey.
Maturation in barrels for several years refines and mellows the new whiskey. Alcohol volume drops to acceptable levels. The impregnated wood of the ex Bourbon Casks or Sherry Butts imparts colour and flavour to the new whiskey and greatly improves the aroma and flavour of the final product. Sherry Casks in particular impart a richness and sweetness to the new whiskey.
Sherry Butts are larger than Bourbon Casks as each holds approximately 500 litres of liquid. While Bourbon Casks are flame charred on the inside before being filled in Midleton Distillery, Sherry Butts are toasted over wood fires for up to 40 minutes. This breaks down the wood polymers and helps to release the rich sherry colours and flavours back into the whiskey as it matures.
While the core Redbreast range is matured in a combination of American bourbon and Spanish oloroso butts, Redbreast Mano a Lámh luxuriates in this signature sherry style by bringing together whiskeys which have been matured exclusively in first fill Spanish oloroso sherry casks, imparting distinct, rich, fruity flavours and a full body.
Billy Leighton, Master Blender at Midleton Distillery, said: “Redbreast Mano a Lámh celebrates our longstanding relationship with the family of artisans in Spain who craft our sherry butts, which are so synonymous with the signature style of Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish whiskey. It was an exciting challenge as a Master Blender to work on this project; having to ensure that the right balance was achieved and the sherry contribution did not over power in the final taste. For me, Redbreast Mano a Lámh offers a distinctive, rich whiskey with intense flavours of dried fruit, which gives way to the perfection of the Spanish oak. I am really eager to learn what our Stillhouse members and Redbreast fans think of this rare expression.”
Brendan Buckley, Global Innovation and Prestige Whiskeys Director at Irish Distillers added: “Since its re-launch in May 2011, Single Pot Still Irish whiskey has quickly established itself as the insiders’ Irish whiskey style of choice with the Redbreast brand very much at the vanguard of this revival. We hope that Redbreast Mano a Lámh will excite whiskey lovers, especially those who enjoy sherried style whiskeys”.
“The coming together of tradition and people, talents and passions – true craftspeople working hand in hand through generations and across borders – is what has helped make Redbreast the most definitive Single Pot Still Irish whiskey in the world and long may it continue.”
Red Breast Mano a Lámh Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey – Tasting Notes
While I haven’t got around to tasting Mano a Lámh myself just yet, here are the official tasting notes by Midleton Distillery Master Blender Billy Leighton.
- Nose: Very deep dried fruits, raisins and sultanas with the more earthy tones of fig, dates and prunes. The sweetness is from the fruit and balances perfectly with pot still spices such as dill and black pepper, and the contribution of the toasted Spanish oak.
- Taste: Silky smooth and deceptively sweet, full of rich, ripe, dark fruit with the leisurely emergence of the signature spices.
- Finish: The rich fruit slowly gives way to the perfection of the Spanish oak.
Red Breast Mano a Lámh Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey – Final Thoughts
Limited to just 2,000 bottles, Redbreast Mano a Lámh is non-chill filtered at 46% ABV and at the moment, is available exclusively to members of The Stillhouse from February 2015, priced at €65. The Stillhouse forms part of the SinglePotStill.com website, which launched in 2011, to educate discerning whiskey lovers about the quality and provenance of this unique style of Irish whiskey.
Midleton seem to be following on the success of Yellow Spot. As many of you will know, Green Spot is a non-age statement Single Pot Still whiskey matured for up to 8 years in Bourbon Casks and Sherry Butts. Yellow Spot went to a new level with an age statement of 12 years and maturation in Bourbon Casks, Sherry Butts and Malaga Butts. We await the release of Red Spot later this year which will have a 15 year age statement and wonder if, in support of the Red label, it will be aged in Bourbon Casks and Port Pipes?
Mano a Lámh, to the best of my knowledge is the first ever Irish Whiskey to be matured exclusively in Sherry Butts. Are we seeing a move to sweeter pot still whiskeys appealing to new Irish Whiskey drinkers? Or, are we seeing the creation of a new type of Irish whiskey? When it’s from Midleton, you know that heritage and quality are always to the forefront of their new product development. Either way, as a big fan of both Redbreast and Yellow Spot, I’m really looking forward to tasting the Mano a Lámh in person in the near future.