St Paddy’s taste test: Sipping five of Bushmills’ best

Drinks Digest whisky editor David Fuller celebrated St Patrick’s Day with a virtual Bushmills whisky tasting hosted by The Whisky List. 

Drinks Digest loves St Patricks Day, especially as it is also the editor’s birthday (stage age 35). So how better to celebrate than attend a Bushmills whisky tasting hosted by Oliver Maruda at and Colum Eager, Bushmills Master Distiller.   

Bushmills is one of the oldest distillers in the world and has been making whisky for more than 400 years – so it knows a thing or two about the spirit! Being around for so long and in great Irish tradition, the distillery prefers to let the whisky do the
talking. And talk to us it did … to be sure to be sure … 

With such a long heritage,  Eager described the challenge of maintaining the same hallmark Bushmills taste while trying to introduce innovation and nuance for customers in five, 10 or 20 years time. The whisky is made from just two ingredients – water flowing over the Devils Causeway basalt rock with a specific mineral character and barley grown and malted in Ireland and a special air drying process (as compared to smoke drying with peat (commonly used in Scotland). 

Using a triple distilled process Bushmills is known for its hallmark fruity, spicy and floral notes.  Unusually, all its core range are 40% ABV.

Our starting Bushmills was Black Bush whiskey which combines an exceptionally high amount of single malt  (80%) married with a sweet, small-batch grain whiskey, and then matured in former Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks. This unique recipe means Black Bush has rich, fruity notes and a deep intense character, balanced by an incredibly unique smoothness. One of the tasters summarised it as “Christmas pudding with plum and spice”.

Second was Bushmills 10yr old, described as an ideal sipping whisky which is a marriage of single malts matured for at least 10 years in hand-selected bourbon barrels and sherry butts. Zesty and fresh on the nose, it is dry and then sweet on the tongue followed by notes of ripe fruit, apple, honey and creamy vanilla and soft toasted wood.  Some tasters described it as dry cereal sweetness. 

Our third (tird!!) taste was the Bushmills 16 Year Old – a marriage of single malts matured for at least 16 years in hand-selected Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels, then finished in port pipes for up to a year. This triple casking transforms the colour to a beautiful ruby red and adds layers of flavour. This is a wonderfully smooth whisky with strong forward
port notes combined with the sweetness of big bold red fruit flavours followed by complex almond nuttiness.  “Very sessionable” as one of our fellow tasters noted.

Moving up another 5 years our 4th whisky was the Bushmills 21 Year Old, a marriage of single malts matured for at least 19 years in hand-selected Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels, then finished in madeira casks for a further two years. This unusually long finishing period allows the malt to patiently mellow, mature and pick up deeper notes of ripe fruit and dried
raisins from the fortified Portuguese wine casks.  This felt very silky on the tongue with a strong caramelised raisin / fruit cake lingering finish. Delicious!

Our final treat was an Australian exclusive – Bushmills 2018 Causeway Collection 13yr old Douro Cask – which weighed with an impressive 56.6% ABV. This big and bold whisky unashamedly melted across our tongues with a lovely peppery tang followed by long notes of big berry plums.  Definitely a made for a big country and a great way to finish a great tasting!

Thank you Bushmills and TWL and Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone. 

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