One thing that I have always loved about Irish Whiskeys over other whiskeys is the nose. To me, Irish whiskeys have a distinct, sweet tobacco and cereal scent that I can never get enough of. The cask strength Redbreast 12 Year is no different. In fact, I enjoyed it so much it took me a while to actually get around to the first sip. Even at the high proof, there was absolutely no burn or alcohol smell in the nose.
That carried over to the taste as well. 116.4 proof is nothing to laugh at, and yet it's hardly even noticeable in this whiskey. It was soft, smooth, velvety and incredibly easy to drink from front to back. It's a heavier whiskey, and it coated my mouth and throat, allowing me to really savor every single sip.
Although my experience with Irish whiskeys is not extensive by any stretch, this one is certainly bolder in flavor than any other one I've had. It immediately hit me with vanilla, but not a sweet vanilla like you get in bourbon. Rather, the vanilla flavor was blended with a cereal flavor that, quite frankly, reminded me of Frosted Cheerios, one of my favorite breakfast cereals.
After a second or two, however, a slight bitterness hit my tongue, like burnt orange peel. I can't tell you now as I sit here and write this whether I enjoyed this contrast in flavor, but at the very least I found it . . . interesting.
The vanilla flavor also took a back seat to prominent sherry notes and a lingering plum flavor on the back end. The sherry was not quite as in-your-face as some sherry finished whiskeys I've had, but rather was balanced very well with the other flavors. Considering Redbreast highlights their use of sherry casks in their advertising, I was worried that the sherry might be overdone, but such was no the case.
This is one of the more dynamic whiskeys I've tasted in terms of not just the different flavors, but the contrast in the change from one flavor to the next from sip to swallow. There's a lot going on in each sip, and it makes for a really enjoyable pour!