W & A Gilbey’s Established 1857

The Redbreast brand is first recorded in print in 1912, but by this time it was already described as one of W & A Gilbey’s ‘famous brands’, suggesting that the Redbreast name had been an unofficial nickname for the popular Gilbey’s Castle JJ Liqueur Whiskey, distilled by John Jameson & Son, aged twelve years and bottled in bond by W & A Gilbey, wine importers and distillers founded in 1857. The name Redbreast is attributed to the company’s chairman, himself an avid bird-lover.

Wine merchants of note

By 1861 Gilbey’s had premises in Dublin and by 1875 held the largest stocks of Irish whiskey in the world, outside of the distilleries themselves. In 1887 the company were marketing John Jameson & Son’s ‘sole make’ pure and unblended Irish whiskey, with every bottle of their Castle Grand Whiskey bearing the signature of John Jameson. What would eventually become Redbreast 12 Year Old was being marketed in 1904 by Gilbey’s as John Jameson & Son’s Castle ‘JJ Liqueur’ Whiskey 12 Years Old and featured the similar bottle shape and red and white label that Redbreast would bear until the 1960s. In 1970 Irish Distillers Ltd. (IDL) – created by the merger of John Jameson & Son, John Power & Son and Cork Distilleries Company – decided to phase out sales of bulk whiskey by the cask to independent bottlers with Gilbey’s supply for Redbreast running out when Bow Street Distillery was closed in the summer of 1971. In 1985, the last Gilbey’s bottling of Redbreast was released and the brand name to IDL the following year.

Redbreast takes flight

In December 1991, after an absence of almost ten years, Redbreast was re-introduced by IDL. Now using pot still whiskey from Midleton distillery, it was matured for twelve years in only the finest sherry and bourbon casks, benefitting greatly from IDL’s revamped wood programme. The improvement was welcomed by renowned whisky writer Michael Jackson who said “This is traditional Irish pot-still at its richest: well-matured and with a generous slug of sherry. For some lovers of this style, Redbreast approaches perfection.” Today the Redbreast range has expanded to include a cask strength 12-year-old, a 15-year-old and a 21-year-old, all of which have been highly commended by connoisseurs and competitions alike. The latest addition to the range, Lustau, is the first non-age statement release and introduces a first-fill Oloroso sherry cask finish.

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