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Thursday 29 September 2011

The (Pot) Still 'O The Morning

I love Indian Summers. Here we are a few days away from October and the sun is blasting through the the shutters at Caskstrength Cottage, my beaten up old writing desk bathed in a wonderfully warming glow as well as the promise of another excellent day ahead. It is 8.54am, I am about to review the first whisky of the day and I have finally managed to connect up my computer to a remarkable piece of technology called a Squeezebox.

(no, not this type)

this is more like it.

It effectively allows me to stream all my music to the stereo wirelessly from anywhere in the house, as well as access the impossibly large library of songs contained on Spotify. As much as it pains me to say it, there really is no point in ever visiting a mainstream record shop again. Thank you HMV, but your services are no longer required.

Having said that, if anything, it makes the experience of actually buying a record exciting again. There will always be gaps in your music collection that can't be fulfilled by online providers so with any luck, the independent retailer and second hand vinyl shops will thrive again- so long as people can be arsed to find them.

My first whisk(e)y of the day is also designed to fill a gap, this time in the cask strength Irish whiskey category. Off the top of my head I can think of very few standard release Irish whiskies, bottled at cask strength - Connemara... anything else? So the release of Red Breast 12 year old Cask Strength edition is something of a new venture, especially for Irish Distillers.

Glancing into my cabinet I can see a bottle of Red Breast 15 yo; an exceptional whiskey bottled at 46% but probably an unfair comparison point. As soon as we can grab a dram of the regular strength 12 yo, we'll bring you an addendum side-by-side tasting. But with the sun on my back and Beck's Sea Change seamlessly transported from my lap top to my stereo, it's time to dive in and see whether this dram will ultimately add to what promises to be an exceptional day.

Red Breast - 12 Years Old - Cask Strength Edition - 57.7% - Batch B1/11- 70cl

Nose: Wow, the additional strength spirit makes its presence known immediately. It has a firey top note, which dies away quickly to reveal notes of fresh plums, a little dustiness, some clean linen, desiccated coconut and a lingering creaminess, akin to dairy fudge. Very pleasant indeed.

Palate: For the first whisky of the day, pre 9am, this is certainly a mouthful! Powerful and coating, the tongue gets the first blast of wonderful sweetness, more of the dairy fudge, followed by some cornflake notes, creamy vanilla, golden syrup, a deft hint of floral apple peel (Pink Lady?) and some black cherries. Despite the power, this is a brilliantly developed dram, with the sweetness lingering on the palate, slowly unveiling layers of fruit, cream and on the very back, a little spice. A drop of water certainly broadens the softness out, but it doesn't really need it. One suspects that you're probably going to choose this to drink undiluted - otherwise you might as well get the 40% version.

Finish: Lengthy and creamy, with the emergence of the apple again on the death.

Overall: A hugely welcome addition to the Red Breast family. As we've written on here before, along with Green Spot, Red Breast 12 year old is one of those solid, dependable Irish whiskies that oozes character, as well as class. Given the the higher abv, this bottling carries on the character, albeit with a bit more intensity.

For some bizarre reason, we've never actually reviewed the 15 yo on this site, so if the day carries on like this, i'll be cueing up another glass and probably writing off my planned morning gardening.

The Indian Summer, eh. Today, I think the phrase 'Irish Summer' is probably more appropriate.

***Addendum*** after checking the cabinet more throughly I realised a small bottle of regular strength Red Breast 12yo was hiding at the back. As a side-by-side the new Cask Strength release is clearly a more dynamic whiskey, with elegant top notes of fresh fruit and Juicy Fruit chewing gum.

On reducing the Cask Strength version down (to roughly 40% ) the difference is quite distinct, with the original exhibiting more butterscotch & soft toffee notes and the Cask Strength exploding with fruit above and beyond notes of soft caramel and vanilla. In short they are 2 very different whiskies. And we salute that.