What a time to be an Irish Whiskey fan! Two icons of the industry, Redbreast and Dunville’s, are making some great stuff at an unwavering rate. Redbreast, calm and relaxed in its demeanour and absolutely lethal in its delivery, and Dunville’s, the new kid on the block, making some serious noise and punching above its weight. From whiskies shrouded in bird feeder armour to mirror accompanying whiskies, both brands, albeit different, are throwing their hats in the ring. This review will compare and contrast them before putting them head-to-head in a glorious Pedro Ximénez (PX) saturated battle a real David v Goliath encounter, to which I have ringside seats.
I suppose we should tackle the fundamental difference first; Redbreast’s characteristic Single Pot Still bravura and Echlinville’s sourced Single Malt. Well known whiskey historian, Fionnán O’Connor, describes the unmalted component as giving pot still whiskey a “spicier bristle” and “thicker texture” than the otherwise similar malt whiskeys. Whilst there is no indication of where Echlinville has sourced their single malt from, it’s highly likely Cooley provided it, and if this is the case, the quality of the standard will always be assured. Therefore, the quality is very much guaranteed by both parties in this round.
PX is a pretty common finish amongst most distilleries, but the type of PX plays a big part in the maturation and overall quality. There’s a reason why it’s so popular; PX is probably the sweetest wine in the world; its complexity of aroma and flavour make it fresh and harmonious on the palate. It’s unique because it’s obtained from the overly ripe grapes of the same name, which are dried in the sun to get an exceptionally high sugar content. Its ageing process, which is exclusively oxidative, gives the wine a refined aromatic concentration and greater complexity whilst fully preserving the characteristic freshness of the variety. There’s possibly an argument here that Dunville’s know their PX better due to the frequency of use, whereas it’s possibly Redbreast’s glass jaw. Its use in the second dream cask (whilst still very good) was perhaps the least popular of all four. Still, good to see Redbreast have not thrown in the PX towel just yet.
Redbreast has used Pedro Ximénez hogsheads seasoned at the Páez Lobato cooperage in Jerez for their latest release, which remains a rare finishing to their trademark Oloroso finished whiskies. Since the second Dream Cask release, it remains relatively untrodden ground for Redbreast. Comparatively, Echlinville’s trademark finishes have typically been PX, including their dark series and single cask releases; only recently have they delved into Oloroso amongst other finishes. There is no indication where Dunville’s 12-year-old have sourced their PX casks from, although Dunville’s should be the more experienced going into the fight.
Redbreast has not shed light on the age of their whiskey; I should imagine that it would be between 10-14 years old, given the price range. Alternatively, Dunville’s core range PX whiskey is stated as 12-years-old. I’ve given Echlinville some stick in the past for pricing, and they’re undoubtedly going to take it on the chin again here; £88 for a 12-year-old is pricey; similarly, Redbreast’s pricing of their release at the £68 price point, albeit cheaper, even for a ‘limited release,’ has still left some customers frustrated. But £20 is a big difference, and the price is undoubtedly in Redbreast’s favour here. Ultimately, it comes down to the quality.
Redbreast has been quite taciturn with this release. With it being lauded as a ‘Limited Edition’ release, bottles have been snapped up with them already being put up for three times the original value, much to fans’ dismay. This is in spite of the actual number of bottles in this limited release not being declared. It could be a great ploy from Redbreast to create that typical hype storm to drive sales or could be an effect of the ever-increasing ambiguity regarding transparency bounding brands; a low blow indeed. There’s not the same response from Dunville’s fans due to theirs being core, but the 12-year-old is a by-product and evolution of the popular 10-year-old undercard, so this 12-year-old has been popular.
Redbreast PX is the first Limited Edition release from the Iberian Series and is a Pedro Ximénez edition is a Single Pot Still Whiskey, triple distilled, initially matured in Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks before being re-casked in Pedro Ximénez Hogsheads. The ambiguity continues with Dunville’s release; after some time digging, all that is clear is that it is finished in PX casks….although unhelpful, it would seem strange that they would have information on the bottle regarding the casks.
Anyway, the tale of the tape: Redbreast, ‘limited edition,’ 46%, single pot still, triple distilled, initially bourbon and Oloroso casks then PX, NAS, £68. Dunville’s, core, 46%, single malt, triple distilled, finished in PX, 12-year-old, £88.
For the hundreds of whiskey drinkers reading, and the thousands drinking at home, LADIES and GENTLEMEN………let’s get ready to RUMBLEEEEEEEEE!
Redbreast PX Iberian Series
Nose: it’s a beautiful one-two combo of sweetness and spice, with cola cubes, stewed apples, fudge, flat coke and clementine oranges. Lots of pot still spice and toasted nuts.
Palate: full-fat coke, some lime zest, lots more spice which delivers that classic Redbreast style. Lots of desert creamy sweetness from Christmas cake and creme brûlée.
Finish: It’s a long finish with chilli chocolate and lots of spice, including cinnamon and clove coming through to deliver that knock-out combination.
Dunville’s 12-year-old PX
Nose: a sucker punch of lots of dried fruit and spice, you’d almost think that this was another SPS expression. Then there’s the cake notes that come through, with Jamaica and fruit cake both prominent. Then there’s just a lovely arrangement of sweetness coming from stewed plums, caramel, love hearts and zesty lemon peel.
Palate: The gloves are off when it comes to the palateots more spice, cinnamon, cloves and a helping of black pepper. Then it hits you with the sweetness from some clementine oranges and spiced vanilla.
Finish: Medium finish with lots of milk chocolate towards the end, fruit salads and a fiery pepper note that you could chew through.
Both brands are coming out swinging here, and what a slugfest it is. Redbreast really go for it early in the bout, with nose being sensational, and the flavours and notes being superb. The palate equally so, but, call me a traditionalist, I just don’t think this is as good as the 12-year-old; it is still very good, but in terms of the overall variability of the palate and actual whiskey, I found it a bit predictable and very Redbreast like. I suppose that’s just a traditional single pot still whiskey and that’s absolutely fine, and I would definitely buy another bottle of this should the opportunity present itself (unlikely without paying a hefty price at auction..).
With the Dunville’s, I was tempted to score this higher, mainly due to the price, but in terms of picking an actual winner, I think a draw would have been anticlimactic and am therefore pushed to pick a winner; the Dunville’s narrowly has the judges’ scorecards with a 7.5. The Dunville’s is just a wonderful expression of what you can do with sourced whiskey. The variety in the flavours and depth is really good and the finish is perfect length.
In general though, two very good whiskies showcasing their ability and the quality of whiskey that you can gain from a PX cask.