Look closely at this bottle of Redbreast 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey and you’ll notice three names on the label: John Jameson & Sons, W & A Gilbey and Redbreast.
Since the late 1800s, Gilbey’s, a sherry importer, had supplied casks and bonding facilities for Jameson, and at one time held 0.7 million gallons of maturing Jameson stock in its warehouses. By 1912 Gilbey was advertising its own ‘Redbreast J.J. Liqueur Whiskey 12 Year Old’. The name was chosen by the Gilbey’s chairman who was a keen ornithologist, in honour of the Robin Redbreast. This Redbreast 12 Year Old contains spirit distilled by Jameson & Sons which has been matured and bottled by W & A Gilbey in the 1930s.
The particular bottle in our current auction originally came from a bar in County Antrim. The seller’s grandfather was a publican and an undertaker (which is not an uncommon combination in Ireland). The pub, in Ballymena, was called The Farmers Hotel because the nearby farmers used to stay there overnight when driving their produce into town for market day. The red brick dwelling had been in the family since the late 19th century right up until at least the 1960s. The family had always lived there and the bar itself was in fact the family lounge and the big yard was used for the undertakers.
When the grandfather died the pub was taken over by the seller’s uncle, but only a few years later part of the property was taken over by a shopping development and eventually the property became derelict.
This well-kept bottle came down the family via the seller’s father who is now 91 and has no interest in the bottle. The seller is not a whiskey drinker himself but well aware how special this bottle is and would love it to go to an appreciative home. ‘I only wish my grandfather had a kept a few more bottles,’ he said.