Is there a name more synonymous with Irish whiskey? Bushmills has been around for literally decades. Its story is one of expedition, tragedy, survival and revival. Bushmills is in quite the idyllic setting. Sat upon the river Bush and a stone through away from the Giant’s Causeway, the little town is picturesque and perfect for whiskey making.
Bushmills holds the record for the oldest distillery in the world; they’re proud of that fact and advertise it hard; that, however, is a bit of a fallacy. They have the oldest license to distil in the world after a permit was given to Sir Thomas Phillips by King James I in 1608, to distil whiskey. It wasn’t actually until 1784 when the distillery was built to produce whiskey under the Old Bushmills label. From the late 17th century and into the 18th century, Bushmills suffered a period of inactivity right until it was bought by two spirit merchants, named James McColgan and Patrick Corrigan. Having made it into a limited business, their assertiveness was soon dealt a swift blow when a huge fire destroyed the distillery.
After reconstruction and redemption, Bushmills commissioned the SS Bushmills, which as a vessel took the unprecedented move of sailing all around the world to self-indorse their whiskey. The act very recently inspired the ‘Steamship’ edition to be produced, with rum, bourbon, port and sherry cask finishes, inspired by different origins to become a travel retail ‘exclusive.’
Like all Irish whiskey brands at the time, Bushmills was hit hard by world wars, resource shortage and prohibition, but unlike the majority, managed to stay afloat, so much determinedly and industriously so that it remained the only Northern Irish distillery up until the turn of the century. It has changed ownership throughout too, from Irish Distillers to Pernod Ricard, to Diageo and now Jose Cuervo, with the latter disrespectfully using it as a bargaining chip to buy out Don Julio.
Bushmills have been on a bit of an unusual deviation recently too. Avid Bushmills fans have forever been calling for some cask strength releases they know that Bushmills can and have produced; Scotch Malt Whiskey is an example of this. And with the announcement of the ‘Causeway Collection,’ Bushmills fans had their patience repaid tenfold.
But to bring it back a notch to its humble core range, Bushmills has always had the history, the reputation and the world-renown ability to be great at what they do. Having a core range consisting of White Bush, Black Bush, a 10, 12, 16 and 21-year-old, fans kept quiet knowing they had a solid core range, the envy of most other brands. The Black Bush is the real hidden gem here. Much revered and acclaimed, the expression is pitched perfectly.
Bizarrely, Bushmills doesn’t state the age on the bottle, but it’s advertised as an 8-year-old whiskey on the website, with no indication of chill filtering or added colouring. It’s a triple distilled liquid that combines an exceptionally high amount of malt whiskey with a lighter grain whiskey. It is then matured in former Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon casks. The price range is quite variable, but Amazon has a litre of it for £31.97, a price point you can seriously get behind.
Nose: lots of freshness comes through, some lemon and lime zest as well. Then comes a nutty note; chopped almonds perhaps. There’s a nice sweetness to it too; toffee nut crisp bar and caramel are both delightful.
Palate: The big thing that comes across here is the texture and the velvety mouthfeel, presumably with the 80% malt. There’s a good hint of spice coupled with fruity notes of cherries, blackcurrants and peach melba yoghurt too. There’s a slight creaminess to it too, almost creamy mocha-like. Some more spice towards the back-end with cinnamon popping up out of nowhere.
Finish: More fruits come through again, tangy oranges with a little pepper to give it some heat. Medium finish with some gentle heat for good measure.
For its price and given it’s probably one of the biggest brands on the island of Ireland, this whiskey is delicious. It will not wholly overwhelm the consumers, but it will pleasantly surprise them with its quality.
This was one of the first whiskies that I got into, probably because you will find this in most off-licenses and most shops almost everywhere. Why? Because people love it. Very rarely will any brands sell a litre of a quality blend for £31. The competition is getting better with blends (check out Jonathon’s review here), but Bushmills Black Bush is still way out front. In terms of my score, I would whole-heartedly buy a bottle of this; I keep doing so!
This whiskey is perfect for when you come home and don’t know what to drink. Perfect to sit and sip by itself, delectable in an Irish coffee and wicked in a cocktail, it’s a quality all-rounder.