Classification: Straight Bourbon Finished in Irish Whiskey Casks
Company: Heaven’s Door Spirits
Distillery: Sourced (from undisclosed distillery[ies])
Release Date: May 2021
Age: 10 Years (Finished in Redbreast’s signature Single Pot Still casks for an additional 15 months per company website)
Mashbill: 70% Corn, 30% Rye & Malted Barley
Color: Medium Amber
Price: $100 (2021)
Master Blenders’ Edition is the first ever collaboration between Heaven’s Door Spirits and Redbreast Irish Whiskey. The resulting product was created in tandem by Master Blenders Ryan Perry of Heaven's Door and Billy Leighton of Redbreast Irish Whiskey. According to the company press release, Perry and Leighton worked together on a multitude of blends and barrel finishes to arrive at their final whiskey profile. As a lover of Irish Whiskey and of Redbreast in particular, Heaven's Door Founder, Bob Dylan, worked closely with the Master Blenders and sampled over a dozen blends before settling on the final selection.
The Master Blenders' Edition starts with Heaven's Door 10 year aged Straight Bourbon, which was subsequently finished in Redbreast's signature Single Pot Still Casks for an additional 15 months. Before holding Redbreast’s single pot Irish whiskey, the casks held Spanish sherry.
Dark cherry washes over leather and burnt oak, with a touch of cinnamon spice peeking through. The scents work well together, and the overall aroma leans heavily towards the savory side of the spectrum. The nose is quite manageable and even a bit light considering the proof, but what it offers is enjoyable.
The whiskey lands softly but with an immediate heavy mouthfeel. Spicy notes quickly ramp up, transitioning from cinnamon to nutmeg and finally to spicy oak. A nutty, tobacco-like base grounds the spicy mix, with juicy dark fruits in tow. The palate is intense and even a bit bombastic at times, offering a robust mouth-coating sip that’s filled with dimension.
A crescendo of spice and a pop of sweet caramel leads initially. As it fades, the finish turns slightly dry on the backend, offering aged oak, barrel char, and more dark fruit. The long finish is punctuated by more spice. It’s notable for its complexity and leaves a lasting impression.
While aging Irish whiskey in ex-bourbon barrels is relatively common, aging bourbon in ex-Irish whiskey casks is not. How would the more common fruit, smoke, and light spice flavors often found in Irish whiskeys - which are typically more gentle than bourbon - transfer to bourbon?
Surprisingly, the end result does not taste like a blend of the two whiskeys. It’s also more robust than Heaven Door’s standard bourbon. It offers more complex spice notes, a heavier mouthfeel, and more overall dimension. It’s almost as if the base bourbon is more enhanced than modified, accenting the flavors of the bourbon and adding overall complexity but not necessarily tasting at all like Irish whiskey on its own. As a result, it will appeal to bourbon drinkers but not necessarily those seeking an Irish whiskey flavor profile.
Master Blender’s Edition starts with a 10 year aged Heaven’s Door Straight Bourbon, and is then aged for over 15 months in ex-Redbreast Irish whiskey casks. Heaven Door’s standard bourbon is aged around 8 years, and offered at $50 and Redbreast 12 Year is a little over $50. At $100, Master Blender’s Edition doubles these base prices. However, it’s important to note the base Heaven’s Door Straight Bourbon used in this blend is two years older than the company’s standard bourbon, and an additional 15 months of finishing is on the longer side for a finished whiskey. Combined with the unusual nature of this finishing style, makes the whiskey one you don’t have much to directly compare to, if anything. For those reasons, this limited edition experiment is fairly priced.
An unlikely combination, finishing a 10 year old bourbon in ex-Irish whiskey casks yields a bourbon-focused flavor profile with added complexity and dimension.
I always enjoy trying whiskeys that take a new spin on things, whether it’s a unique barrel finish, unusual mashbill, not-so-common blend, or something else entirely. While bourbon has long influenced Irish whiskey, or at least ex-bourbon barrels have, the opposite has not been true. The resulting flavor profile of Heaven's Door Redbreast Master Blenders' Edition is surprising, adding an unexpected robust quality to the bourbon. The resulting product could have gone any number of directions, and either by chance or by choice the final result maintains a bourbon-focused flavor profile. It’s an interesting experiment, and one I hope to see more of going forward.