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Ladies and gentleman—the legendary Redbreast.
Irish whiskey used to be so wonderfully simple: you drank Bushmills if you were Protestant, Jameson if you were Catholic and Powers if you were a drunk. You want variety—drink Scotch, you fancy pants. But then in 1991 Irish Distillers (makers of the aforementioned Jameson and then newly purchased by liquor giant Pernod-Ricard) resurrected an old brand called Redbreast that was once marketed by a private merchant called W&A Gilbey. It was made with an old-fashioned pot still (as opposed to the more modern Coffey stills which were much more efficient), it was aged 12 years and it was aimed squarely at the single-malt scotch drinker but at a price point quite a bit lower than Macallan. Most importantly, it was amazing. Whisk(e)y nerds, who had long eschewed the mass-produced blended Irish whiskey couldn’t get enough of the stuff, then restaurants and bars needed to have it and soon a genuine phenomena was afoot.New brands sprung up to compete with Redbreast—Connemara, Tyrconnell, Writer’s Tears, Teeling—and Redbreast itself began to put out new, older offerings as stock matured—first a 15-year-old and then a 21-year-old, but the public still couldn’t get enough. Within a few years of Redbreast’s launch Irish whiskey became the fastest growing spirit in the world, with annual growth of approximately 15 to 20 percent per annum. Jameson—once the picture of solid and steady now has 9 different versions for sale in B.C. alone.So now when you jig into the BCLDB for St. Patrick’s Day you have a choice of 27 different types of Irish whiskey to choose from as opposed to the 2 or 3 that would have been on offer before Redbreast came along. It’s price has crept up to $73, but it’s a small price to pay for turning an entire industry around.