Close encounters

Posted 05 October 2021 by Matt / In Midleton
The Dramble reviews Redbreast Pedro Ximenez Edition

Bottle Name: Redbreast Pedro Ximenez Edition

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Midleton
Region: Ireland

Sit down. Get comfortable. You’re listening to me so you can relax. And because you’re relaxed you can feel comfortable. Comfort builds more relaxation so you can relax even more comfortably. And because you’re relaxing right now, you know you can feel even more comfort developing inside of you. Breathe. Take a moment to yourself. Close your eyes. Ready? I want you to put aside the limited editions. Forget the stampedes for the latest new and shiny things. Disregard the collection peacocking. Ignore the incessant need to justify your whisky self-worth on the Internet. Just relax. And remember that the beating heart of whisky isn’t the bottles – it is and always will be the people.

The zeal and exhilaration for the London Whisky Show this past weekend was palpable even before the Old Billingsgate doors were flung open. A sense of expectation hung in the air. A near electric anticipation – for the attendees, exhibitors, and organisers alike. Everyone had been away for far too long. But for me, and I dare say for many others, it was not the special releases, venerable drams or dusty vintage bottles that produced the biggest smiles and moments of happiness over the three days of the show. It was the handshakes, the fist bumps, the hugs and the embraces. It was the reacquaintances. The auld acquaintances and the new acquaintances (neither of which featured on the Bunnahabhain stand). It was the people.

It's all too easy to lose sight of what whisky can be outside of it being 'just a drink'. The desire to obtain can quickly overcome the desire to enjoy – and we live in times when increasingly the acquisition itself can become the perceived highest form of gratification. The perceptions and expectations of whisky have greatly shifted over the last decade – and 18 months of FaceTime rather than facetime has inarguably had the effect of pushing the needle even further towards procurement satisfaction. But hours spent stuck inside glued to the Internet and scouring sites for bottles, are hours not spent doing the most human of things – relating to one another.

And so, imagine my delight to see countless cases of the fam winning out over the dram this weekend past.

Of course, as a whisky show there was plenty of learning, tasting, discussing, and dissecting. Anything less would have been quite odd. However, alongside this and throughout the event was a hearty and heartfelt dose of true (non-digital) human interaction. Richard Paterson’s “hello, how are you?, quite well, thank you very much.” played out over a dram, but not focussed on the dram itself. A show must of course provide ample whisky (there were no problems in that regard) – but at the same time, any gathering must be a vehicle for human interaction – otherwise everything can be boiled down to pure commodity. And if you allow yourself to, the cynic inside of you will easily find enough commodification within whisky to kill even the most ardent of passions.

So, just breathe in. Relax once more. We’re going deeper.

You don’t need to spend any amount of time digging online for research-based evidence to appreciate the value of making and maintaining social connections. Sounding boards, advice, counsel, frivolous chit chat or just a nourishing good laugh. All these interactions and moments are vital for maintaining mental and physical health. And they are all inherent to what whisky should be.

Regardless of whether you’re a drinker or a collector – in isolation, both drinking and collecting offer far narrower benefits. Indeed, the former is rarely a well-thought-out idea over longer periods of time. What’s a revelatory taste moment without someone to share it with? What’s a library of whisky history without anyone else to appreciate it with? In both cases I would strongly (and increasingly) argue that the digital facsimile of our whisky selves is but a poor, and often warped imitation of reality. As a replacement during lockdown, it has aided many (myself included) to keep on an even keel, but as was abundantly clear at the London Whisky Show – for every profiteering queue wanker charging towards the shop, there are dozens of whisky enthusiasts who still dearly cherish the time spent with people as much as the time spent with charged tasting glasses.

Whisky should be a great leveller. Enjoyed no matter your standing, status, sexual identity or situation. We would all do well to both remember this and to relish the personal moments that surround whisky’s conception, creation and sensory pleasures. And all of these instances *always* involve other people.

As the doors to the Whisky Show opened and the attendees came flooding in, I was presented with 18 months of catching up to do. House moves, job moves, new pursuits and new additions to families. And it’s at times like these when the whisky is but the icing on top of a very rich cake of camaraderie and community.

Open your eyes. You’ve not been hypnotised. This is not the ‘new normal’. This is the real normal. Whisky is people. People are whisky. And I love you all.

Launched just prior to the show and enjoyed by many an attendee was Redbreast’s new Pedro Ximénex Edition. Joining 2016’s Lustau Edition in what is being marketed as a somewhat backdated “Iberian Series”, the new Redbreast has been crafted from single pot still Irish whiskey, that has been matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks before being additionally matured in Pedro Ximénez hogsheads from the Antonio Paez Lobato cooperage. The wood is noted as having been pre-seasoned with PX for 12 to 22 months, with the extra maturation time of the NAS expression listed as 2 years. Bottled at 46% ABV, the release is hitting shelves across Ireland and UK currently (where it appears to be selling out quickly) and will be coming to the USA from next month. The RRP is £72.

This is not Redbreast’s first rodeo with PX – 2019’s Dream Cask release also featured a re-racking into the sherry style – albeit several years earlier and into larger sized butts. Nevertheless, it is pleasing to see the style ustilised in an expression which mere mortals are now able to purchase. And, given the Iberian Series umbrella, indicates that the bottling should be here to stay for some time and presumably that others could join it over time.

Nose: Cranberries sprinkles with icing sugar join darker hedgerow berries picked fresh from the vines. Soft caramel and chocolate sponge offer a richness which is tempted by archetypal pot still spices – plenty of nutmeg alongside brandy snaps and gingerbread men. Reduction reveals a citrus air with lemon balm, whilst broadening the experience out to include chopped macadamia nuts and freshly baked brioche.

Taste: The attack is nicely textured with the Pedro Ximénex contributing syrupy weight. Opening on toffee and gooey caramel, a selection of jammy berries and preserves (both red and black) is livened by zested orange. The development favours the precursor ex-bourbon casks with vanilla buttercream and foamy latte coffee sitting alongside ground nutmeg and grated chocolate. Dilution presents substantially more toffee – sweet and rich but never tipping over the edge into saccharine territory – think sticky toffee pud.

Finish: Medium in length with candied almonds alongside milky coffee and a dainty overlay of aromatic oakiness.

Redbreast’s new Pedro Ximénex Edition offers high drinkability and enough divergence away from the rest of the range to make it easy to recommend taking a spin with. Indeed, I certainly favour it over stablemate Lustau – where, despite the overall profile not being poles apart from the PX, the integration and the maintenance of the trad pot character just doesn’t feel quite a solid as it does with this new release. The PX delivers both texture and flavour – and it has been superbly judged so as to not impinge on the underlying character one would expect from Redbreast. Put me down for a bottle when I can find one.

Review sample provided by Richmond Towers on behalf of Irish Distillers

Score: 87/100

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