Is Irish whiskey set up for a renaissance, or are they riding the coattails of bourbonism? As I was diving through some new Redbreast releases recently, this thought jumped into my head. I've long drank Irish whiskey. Far before I ever discovered the magic of bourbon, rye and other malt whiskies - Irish was my only love. It speaks my language and connects me with memories of people that have come and gone from my life through the years, so I continue to honor and explore the spirit category today in my reviews. Seeing new finishes and label differentiations flourish in Irish whiskey makes me believe that rather than attempting to continue to just produce great, consistent whiskey for everyone, some level of corporate greed is beginning to seep into the incredible legacy of Redbreast. The early editions of the PX Edition was an instant hit with me. It's been a staple whiskey for me that I attempted to shout from the rooftops since its inception in 2021. As of 2023, there was a double drop of a new rendition of the PX Edition as well as a Tawny Port release that unfortunately just fell flat on its face. It's just not their best work, and ultimately feels rushed. I have reviews of both available if you're interested, but let's get into the subject at hand - understanding from when and where your bottle of Redbreast comes from! Since whiskey can vary drastically from barrel to barrel, the bottling date is important information to know as an informed consumer.
Much like American whiskey employs laser codes on their whiskey bottles, Redbreast has decided to make this information much more readable. While the glass is still laser etched, Redbreast has dedicated a portion of their back label to reproducing this same code. This code tells the story of the whiskey's source. Let's dive in and find out what each of these cryptic characters represents.
If you look on the back of your bottle there is a lot code you can use to determine when it was bottled (which is approximately when it was released). Near the bottom of the back label you will see a brown section with the letter "L" and some numbers. The "L" just stands for lot and the numbers indicate the year and date of bottling. There's always good tidbits of information on back labels, so I implore you to check it out the next time you are shopping for a new bottle.
For our primary goal here, you'll want to pay extra attention to the first 4 digits after the L. The first digit after the L is the last number of the bottling year, so if your code reads L3XXXXXXXX, you have a 2023 bottling. If your code reads L2XXXXXXXX you have a 2022 bottling, and so on.
The next 3 digits after the first year indicator is the Julian date. If you don't have the mind of a supercomputer, you can use a Julian date converter like this one here in order to determine what day it was bottled. So if your code reads L3165XXXXX like mine does, you would plug in "23165" to the converter and it would tell you it was bottled on 14-JUN-2023. The laser etching on the bottle, which is very faint, confirms this information with the date being printed below the replicate code in the European format "14/06/23".
The 5th digit in the sequence L21653XXXX distinguishes the bottling plant. You'll have to reach out to Redbreast via email on this one, but I do know that plant 3 is their location in Waterford. I have not seen any other numbers in recent times.
Moving onto the 6th digit shows the bottling line within the plant, so on our code L316531XXX, we learn this came off bottling line #1. This helps them trace back to the source of problems if there are ever any defects identified.
The last 3 digits is the number of batches that have been run through the holding/blending vat that was used on that line that year. So on our code L316531415 we learn that the blending vat that formed this release has now held 415 whiskey releases - a testament to the demand for great whiskey these days. I'd love to know how many gallons (or liters - sorry Ireland) this vat holds so the inner nerd in me can estimate how much yearly volume of whiskey goes through this facility. You can see when we try to find the laser code for this sample bottling, it is significantly harder to read; I had to catch this in just the perfect light to get a clear picture.
Got it? Still confused? Let's use another example with this 2021 Redbreast PX Edition to really drive this home. I see the code L119431475.
I can instantly tell it's the 2021 release because of the 1 after the L. Looking up Julian "194" from 2021 brings up 13-JUL-2021 & this is once again confirmed with the laser etch stating 13/07/21. This bottle comes from plant 3, bottling line 1, and it came from the 475th run in the blending vat for this year.
There you have it - all the information you need to dissect your own lot code! What release will you be hunting with this information? I'd like to thank the unnamed "WhiskeyDad" from a 2014 forum post that helped me to pull together this information. If you find any inaccuracies with the information here, feel free to drop a comment or send me an email.