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Bushmills. Don't underestimate this old dog. My favorite Irish Whiskey!

Bushmills. This is the brand and distillery that has won the title of my favorite Irish whiskey! I am always welcoming to be persuaded, but I not only love the whiskey at Bushmills, I also love what they are trying achieve. It is said that Irish whiskey going through a revival, but Bushmills is going through their own internal revival as well. After being owned by Diageo since 2005, the brand was a bit stagnant with some growth purely just from whiskey gaining popularity on a global scale. In 2014 Diageo and tequila giant Casa Quervo made a deal to swap full ownership of the Don Julio Tequila brand for Quervo’s 100% takeover of Bushmills. It’s easy to see Diageo’s want for full ownership of their previously, partly owned Don Julio market, but it should be interesting to see what Casa Cuervo does with Bushmills. I spoke with a few of the employees to get any ideas into how the business might change and I will discuss that later in the post.

Bushmills is the oldest distillery in Ireland and probably one of the oldest recorded in the world. They are located in Northern Ireland, so technically it is considered the UK. Although the buildings and history date back hundreds of years, their equipment is quite modern. In 2007 they installed a new stainless steel lauter tun. It is currently run 24/7 and cleans itself. Each mash will take about 10 tonnes of grist. Their washbacks are also stainless steel. There are a total of 10 and each hold about 75,000 liters of wort. Distillers yeast is used and the fermentation lasts about 59 hours. The still room was quite unique. It had the central control panels right in the center and running along the walls you could see the wash, spirit and intermediate stills. All of the stills were quite tall and had very long lynne arms.

At Bushmills they also do warehousing and bottling on site. They use casks about 3 times and use a full range of finishing/aging casks. They not only age their malt whisky here, but also their grain whiskey. The bottlings of Bushmill that you will typically see at a USA bar will be the Original or the Black Bush. Those are both blended grain whiskeys, mostly made of corn and malt. Although they are the most popular, Bushmills surprised me with how many single malts they had and how dynamic they were. The bottling facility is also quite impressive. It wasn’t running since I visited on a Sunday, but they not only bottle all of Bushmills here, but also 5% of the bottling line goes to contracts. Apparently right now they are helping to

bottle some Jameson.

Here are the drams I was able to try. They were very helpful in letting me try everything they had at the bar and I really want to share them all, so please bear with me on all of the tasting notes!

Bushmills Original

Holly’s Tasting Note..

Nose: Grains, flowers, honey and honeysuckle.

Palate: Apple juice, no spice, very smooth fruit finish.

This is a NAS blend and is made of a split between corn and malt. Typically about 5 or 6 years old.

Bushmills Black Bush

Holly’s Tasting Note..

Nose: Malty, chocolate covered raisins, ripe apples.

Palate: Spicy finish! Creamy chocolate, malty and smooth start.

This again is a NAS blend but is made of 80% malt and 20% corn. A bit richer due to the Olorosso sherry cask finish.

Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt

Holly’s Tasting Note..

Nose: Green apple, lemon juice, Girl Scout lemon cookies, slight creamy chocolate.

Palate: Very light, pineapple juice, honey and vanilla.

This was a great 10 year old malt!

Bushmills 12 Year Old Single Malt (Distillery Reserve)

Holly’s Tasting Note..

Nose: Berries, tart, jams and peanut brittle.

Palate: Strawberries and cream, caramel, and peaches!

Bushmills 21 Year Old Single Malt

Holly’s Tasting Note..

Nose: Strawberry milk shake, raisins, grapefruits, pecan pie, turtle ice cream from Brusters in Rochester, NY.

Palate: Citrus zest at first then raisins, honey and old/ripe apples.

I actually preferred the 10 year old to this 21 year old! This dram was very fruity and creamy.

When I spoke with some of the employees throughout the distillery, they said not much has changed since the ownership swap. The only difference is more hope for experimentation and growth. It seems logical that they always felt 2nd best to all of Diageo’s profitable Scottish Distilleries. They did say that a few bottles such as Irish Honey would be discontinued by Cuervo and they also have seen experimentations such as aging in tequila seasoned barrels. Exciting things to come for Bushmills and it helps that I am already loving their product line! Very, very impressed. Give this old name a try next time you are out.

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