W & A Gilbey was founded in 1857 and began in small basement cellars at the corner of Oxford Street and Berwick Street in London. In 1866, the company moved to new offices and stores at 46 & 47 Upper Sackville Street in the centre of Dublin which contained their own vaults. They sold all their wines and spirits directly to consumers under their own distinctive brand. By 1874, Gilbeys held a stock in bond of over 300,000 gallons of whiskey sourced from “the most celebrated Dublin Distilleries”. The proprietary brand at this time was Gilbey’s Castle Whiskey. By 1887 Gilbey were marketing John Jameson & Son’s ‘sole make’ pure and unblended Irish whiskey. Every bottle of Castle Grand Whiskey had a label certifying that it was Jameson’s. The first official reference to the brand name ‘Redbreast’ appears in August 1912, when Gilbeys were selling “Redbreast” Liqueur Whiskey 12 Years Old. The name ‘Redbreast’ itself refers to the bird, Robin Redbreast, and is attributed to the then Chairman of Gilbey’s, who was an avid bird-fancier. In the mid 1960s, Redbreast was being bottled annually in batches of approximately 4,000 gallons to satisfy a steady demand for the brand. In 1970, Irish Distillers decided to phase out the sales of bulk whiskey ‘by the cask’ to the wholesalers and retailers who bottled it themselves. Gilbeys however, managed to continue receiving pure pot still whiskey for Redbreast until the closure of Bow Street Distillery in the summer of 1971. The last bottling of Redbreast under the Gilbey’s banner occurred in 1985.
In December 1991, Redbreast was re-introduced by Irish Distillers Limited, after an absence of almost 10 years. The veritable pot still whiskey was given a thorough makeover and benefited from Irish Distiller’s revamped wood program. The flawless pot still distillate from Midleton Distillery was now maturing in only the finest sherry and bourbon casks. In 2005, the Redbreast 15 was released bottled at 46% abv and was non chill filtered.
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