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Redbreast 15 Year Old

The Golden Age?

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@OdysseusUnboundReview by @OdysseusUnbound

24th Jun 2020


Redbreast 15 Year Old
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

Apologies if this review is longer than usual.

I'm a history teacher by trade. Since I majored in history, I tend to be "that guy" any time I read historical fiction or watch a period drama on tv or on the big screen. I can suspend my disbelief most of the time and enjoy a "creative" telling of a historical event, such as the Zack Snyder fantasy-action film 300. I don't have the time or energy to outline all the historical inaccuracies in Braveheart or Kingdom of Heaven here, but I suppose we shouldn't be looking to Hollywood for history lessons.

Queen Elizabeth I has been represented many times on film, and I think the most accurate representation of her temperament and personality was Dame Judi Dench's portrayal in Shakespeare In Love. While many viewers might prefer Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth or Elizabeth: The Golden Age, historians have criticized the two films starring Blanchett for portraying the Tudor queen as flighty or easily manipulated by the men around her. Hint: she wasn't. Elizabeth was intelligent, clever, insightful, witty, and had a fiery temper. Most of her contemporaries couldn't predict her actions or her intentions, much less control them.

I've found the same type of phenomenon in discussions with fans of Redbreast. Just about everyone seems to adore Redbreast 12 Year Old, but fewer appreciate Redbreast's 15 Year Old expression. I've heard all kinds of reasons for this preference, from the price difference (which is fair) to the difference in flavour profiles. Some have said Redbreast 15 isn't as smooth as Redbreast 12, but if you know me at all, you'll know that smooth isn't something I look for in a whiskey. In fact, when someone describes a whiskey as smooth, I'm hesitant to buy it. Water is smooth; whiskey should let you know you're drinking something stronger. Calling a whiskey smooth is akin to telling me I have a great personality: you may think it's a compliment, but it's not really something I want to hear. And in the case of my "great personality" it's also completely untrue.

Redbreast 15 Year Old is bottled at a higher abv than Redbreast 12, which might explain why the latter is more popular. The 15 Year Old is bottled at 46% abv, it is chill-filtered, and has added caramel colouring. I wish it was presented unchill-filtered and at its natural colour, but I won't let those details prevent me from buying a whiskey.

Tasting Notes

March 4 2020 Neat from a Brilliant Highland Glass

  • Nose: classic Single Pot Still spiciness, herbal, Thai lime leaves (for real, I promise), orange zest, figs, brown sugar, a touch of butter
  • Palate: rich and oily, dark fruits (figs, raisins, and plums), a bit peppery, becoming a touch waxy, hard caramel candies
  • Finish: long and warming, more dark fruits, cinnamon, caramel sauce, a touch of citrus returning, perhaps a hint of high quality, fruity olive oil. The tail end keeps the sweetness from becoming cloying. Wonderful.
  • Initial Rating: 91/100

April 24 Neat from a Canadian Glencairn

  • Nose: spicy with pepper and cloves, herbal, oranges, figs, toffee, butter
  • Palate: rich and full-bodied, creamy texture, dark fruit (figs, dates), flax seeds, caramel, a touch of cinnamon, a bit of fennel, black pepper
  • Finish: long and warming, with caramel, butter, cinnamon, some citrus near the very end, and then a pleasant touch of orange zest bitterness (Very subtle)
  • Final Rating: 91/100

All subsequent tastings revealed similar notes. This bottle didn't really change much with time and air exposure. I can safely say that I've never tasted a Redbreast I didn't enjoy. While many enthusiasts prefer Redbreast 12 Year Old, I prefer the 15 Year expression. It may not be as easily accessible as the 12 Year, but the 15 Year's vigour and complexity are better suited to my palate. I suppose you could say Redbreast 15 is Dame Judi Dench's Elizabeth whereas Redbreast 12 is Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth. Both have their charms, but I prefer the more fiery presentation.

  • Would I accept a glass of this if someone offered me one? Without a doubt
  • Would I order this in a bar or pub? Yes
  • Would I buy another bottle? Only if I could get it at a better price than it goes for in Ontario.

Related Redbreast reviews


Wierdo commented

Great review @OdysseusUnbound . I enjoyed reading it. Very informative!

I need to get a bottle of Redbreast 15. I've heard mixed reviews but can't help think I'd enjoy it. I like the 12 but can't help wishing it had a bit more oomph! I've got a bottle of my 12 CS in my stash which I'll open at some point. Your review makes me want a bottle of the 15.

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

Nozinan commented

I think my brother in law came into a bottle of this in some manner. If I ever get to go to Alberta again I will have to try it.

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

BlueNote commented

@OdysseusUnbound Have you ever seen Glenda Jackson's portrayal of QE 1? It was a BBC series from the early 70s and was shown on Masterpiece Theatre. I recall it being very good. You might still find it somewhere.

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

Victor commented

@OdysseusUnbound thank you for your review. I am always delighted by your frankness and directness.

I was bored and unimpressed by Redbreast 15 yo when I had some about 6 years ago. I never wanted a bottle based on that taste, and would definitely not have described what I had then as fiery or more lively than any and ALL of the Redbreast 12, standard and CS, I have had since then. The QE1 from what I had then of Redbreast 15 yo would have been more like Maggie Smith, whom I otherwise like a lot, but not for QE1. But batches vary. I'd like to taste what you've been drinking, but I consider the drink to be ridiculously expensive for what I've had of it so far.

One of the reasons I have done few reviews in the last several years is that a whisky by the same label is often very different from one batch to the next. A review is really only reliable for the bottle at hand at the time it was sampled, and for the person doing the evaluation. Reviewing is an interesting and enjoyable pastime, but every review posted is a wasting asset, like a new car losing 30% of its value once you drive it off the lot.

As for Glenda Jackson, my favourite role of hers was as Tchaikovsky's wife in Ken Russell's The Music Lovers. She is delightful in the Mad House at the end.

3 years ago 2Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Victor @BlueNote I have not seen Glenda Jackson’s QEI but I may have to look for it now. With my limited exposure to Redbreast, I would have to agree re: batch variation. I’ve never owned a bottle of the standard 12 because my experience with it has been so spotty. I’ve tasted it in some pubs and it’s been downright bad....bad to the point that I switched to standard ol’ Jameson. I adored my bottle of RB 12 CS, but I haven’t been able to land another one. The price of RB 15 in Ontario is now absurd. It sells for about $125 CAD. That’s a big ask, especially if you get stuck with a bottle from a less than stellar batch. Luckily mine was a good one. A friend of mine travels for work, or did before all this Covid stuff, and was getting RB 15 for around $65-$70 USD. That’s a bit more reasonable, imho.

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

Astroke commented

Then the Redbreast 21 would be Bette Davis as Elizabeth

3 years ago 0

Wierdo commented

@OdysseusUnbound given a choice between a bottle of Rebreast 15 or the 12CS. Which would you go for?

And $65-70 USD is an outstanding price for Redbreast 15. Obviously in the UK we're a lot closer to Ireland than the US and Canada and the price in the UK has consistently been around £70-75 which is roughly $90 USD for a few years now.

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Wierdo RB 12 CS is my favourite RB and it’s about $110 CAD (if you can find it). My buddy has co-workers in quite a few US states so when he was down there on business he had locals telling him where to shop. He’s drinking cheaper whiskies these days because he’s not traveling at all and he refuses to pay LCBO prices for just about everything. He sucks it up when it comes to Laphroaig Quarter Cask because that’s one of his favourites, but other than that he’s drinking Canadian whisky in the $30-$50 range.

3 years ago 0

RianC commented

@OdysseusUnbound - I might this my next Redbreast purchase. This and the 21 look very tempting.

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

Wierdo commented

@RianC the Redbreast 21 is meant to be fantastic.

Eye-watering price though, which has always put me off.

Mind you I paid more for a bottle of Springbank 21 recently!

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

MadSingleMalt commented

I hear that Glenda Jackson had a great personality.

3 years ago 2Who liked this?

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