Category Archives: Bushmills

Bushmills 21 y.o. Review

Bushmills 21 y.o.050

40% abv

Score:  86.5/100


40%?  Really?  I hate to beat a dead horse, but there is simply no valid argument – if you want to present a case to me that you are offering a premium single malt experience, that is – in support of releasing an old and rare(ish) whiskey chill-filtered and watered down to this sort of consistency.  If I sound rather perturbed with this one, let me explain why…

This is really good whiskey.  The nose and palate are harmonious; the nuance and profile are pleasant and intriguing; and the balance struck across all faces of this expression is impressive.  If you have that much going for you, why the hell would you opt to strip out all of the rich and oily mouthcoating fats and lipids via chill-filtration and leave us with a mere shadow of what could be?  Boost the strength to 46% and offer the consumer the true whiskey experience.  This is a perfect example of why Irish whiskey is seen as a lesser sibling to Scotch.  It doesn’t need to be this way.

Alright…let’s breathe deep and appreciate what we have here instead of harping on what we don’t have.  Shouldn’t be hard.  After all, I am a fan of Bushmills.  This is the brand I cut my teeth on.  This 21 year old single malt is one of the apex expressions in the Bushmills portfolio.  It’s a malt composed of bourbon- and Oloroso-matured spirit whish has then been further married together in Madeira barrels for a finishing period.  Sounds like some of Richard Paterson’s sort of witchcraft, but the cohesiveness of the end product is admirable, considering I usually find this sort of triple wood maturation is often close to overkill and beckoning us too deep into tannic wine country.  Not so, here.  Very adept blending.

If you can look past my initial gripes above – and the ~$200 price tag – this is a very nice dram.  Recommended in spite of myself.

Nose:  Quite gooey and jammy.  I like the fruity, spicy balance.  Raisin scones.  Black current.  A little chocolate, and a little caramel.  Barley shows through to nice effect.  A hint of wine gums.  Really good nose, all in.  Clean and appealing.

Palate:  Frustratingly thin and lacking texture, though the flavours are nice.  Grape meets licorice in a way that again reminds of wine gums.  Love the tangy effect and mix of fresh baking and quality preserves.  Faint marzipan.  Over-steeped tea.  The oak gives a slight nip here that gives a tannic feel.  Tastes like a very young 21.

Thoughts:  The nose and palate work really well together, but this one truly is hamstrung by the low abv and lack of mouthfeel.  Oh well.  Still really good, but could have been a classic.


 – Reviewed by:  Curt

 – Photo:  Curt

Bushmills Black Bush Review

Bushmills Black Bush007

40% abv

Score:  79/100


Ok, my juvenile friends.  Quit chuckling over the rather…ummmm…questionable choice of name and let’s just get into the whiskey itself, what say? 

Black Bush.  A blended Irish whiskey from a distillery I’ve carried on a near two decade love affair with.  Bushmills holds pride of place in my wee shriveled heart, simply due to an abundance of great memories and sentimental attachments.  While I can’t suppress my own personal affinity for the dram, hopefully I can provide an accurate sense of what’s in here and a score reflective of the true quality and character of the whiskey.

As far as blended whiskies go, this is rock solid.  It brings a little more character than most of the caramel-driven homogeneity that typically weighs down the blends section in most spirit shops.  Having said that…it’s certainly no extrovert in terms of trumpeting an overtly unique profile either.  That’s fine though.  I don’t believe most folks reaching for the blend are looking for a challenge.  More likely just something that promises to be easy-drinking and bears a smooth and sweet character.  Black Bush definitely ticks the boxes (laying it on pretty thick with the sweetness, I might add), and delivers a dram of broad commercial appeal.

And that’s the crux (and for some, the rub).  The flavour junkies, Scotch snobs and connoisseurs are likely to be looking elsewhere, as this one is just a little too pedestrian for the more advanced palate.  GIev it a go, though.  You might surprise yourself.  Well made is still well made.

I personally l lean towards the Original or the 16 year when drinking Bushmills.  Maybe that will change when I lay paws on the 1608 or the 21 year in coming days.  Bear with me…

Nose:  Grape.  A lot of grape.  Nutmeg and cinnamon in bread dough.  Creamy caramel latte.  Pepper.  Some florals.  There is a LOT of balance on the nose here.  Almost hard to pick apart actually.  Great composition.  Hmmmm…in short, kinda like a mixed berry scone with a dusting of light spices.

Palate:  Grape again.  Into clean cereals.  Honey.  Some big influence from sherry cask blending, I’d guess, just by following the rollercoaster development of this one.  High grain component here, I think.  Very thin, but mouthwateringly juicy.

Thoughts:  A little anemic and lacking in oomph, but seriously drinkable.  Great mix of uber clean and sweet and fruity.  This is a throw-the-cork-away kinda drink.  Hard to get excited about, not special in any way, but easy to quaff.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt


Bushmills 16 y.o. Review

Bushmills 16 y.o.099

40% abv

Score:  88.5/100


Ahhh…young love.  Sixteen year old bourbon-casked whisky meets sixteen year old sherry-casked whisky.  The two go for a quick roll in a port-infused cask and what we end up with is a sweet, sweet thing.

Surprisingly, something in this one rings incredibly close to exotic depths of fruit.  Not something I’d expect in a dram this young, but I am certainly not complaining.

Nose:  Playdough.  Chewy sugar cookies.  Deep grape notes.  Orange peelings.  Cinnamon and nutmeg.  Dust.  Like a glass of fruit juice.  Mulled cider and maybe a little Amaretto.  At once clean and…not.  In a good way.

Palate:  Black current.  A hint of smoke.  Big purple grape.  Five Alive (for the spectacularly rich fruit mix).  Some mouth-puckering tannins.

Smooth…until the slightly bitter finsh.  Slightly contrived, but exceptionally enticing and enjoyable.  Love this one.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bushmills 10 y.o. Review

Bushmills 10 y.o.

40% abv

Score:  84/100


Not my favorite Bushmills, but a solid addition to range nonetheless.  This one takes the sweet caramel barley of the Original, but amps it up with bucketloads of wine-y fruits.  Expect a little dust and oak over deep purple grape and mildest sherry.  There is a bittering berry in there as well, but notes of butter-rich milk chocolate smooth it out and remind of Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut.  The grains at this age are still singing like a plucked piano string, and ten years in oak doesn’t seem to have taken much of the edge off.  Not a bad thing however, just a little sharper than I had expected.

The real beauty of Irish triple distillation is how much it strips the spirit down to purity and allows the barley to take center stage.  This is the heart of a whisky…why shouldn’t it play the star?  Hints of citrus zest round out the nose.

The palate delivers tart dark fruit skin (again…think purple grape) that morphs into apple skin towards the back end of development.  Before we get there though, soft orange fruits and creamy caramel light up the taste buds.

As I hinted at, there are several better Bushmills expressions out there, but the unique character of this one makes it worthwhile if you like your Irish.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bushmills Original Review

Bushmills Original

40% abv

Score:  84.5/100


This revered old chap will always hold a special place in my heart and a place on my whisky shelf. This is where it began for me. The first whiskey I fell in love with. I’ve climbed mountains with it and drank it on my wedding day. I’ve been sick on it and been more than well on it. I truly cannot remember a time when there wasn’t at least a couple different Bushmills bottles in my cabinet.

So what makes it so special? Well…to be honest…nothing really. It is rather typical Irish fare. Light and clean, fruity and grainy.

It is also utterly delicious, and its simple drinkability is where so much of its charm is wrought.

The nose projects sweet caramel barley and smooth subtle nuances of rye or mild bourbon. The delivery is as smooth as a mature Canadian rye. The notes you’d expect based on this are front and center: Mild vanillins, soft and gentle spices and sweet orchard fruit. Primarily peaches. Chewy as hell and nifty to note that while certainly young and clean…it carries flavor notes of something a little older than its years.

Even at a slight 40% abv and chill-filtered, the finish is pleasantly sustained. As the whiskey limps to a slow death on the palate, the final throbbing notes are of a caramel fade and crunchy apple.

Charming, approachable and affordable. The great news is there are all sorts of places to go from here in the Bushmills range. Next? Most likely the Black Bush.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

A Run At The Irish

Maltmonster sat down to a trio of young beauties a few nights back and graciously offered up his take on a few of Ireland’s underappreciated gems.  Buckle up…



It’s been said that whiskey was invented so the Irish wouldn’t rule the world, but who would want to live in a world without whiskey.  After all good health is merely the slowest rate at which one can die!

Knowing that I will never rule the world, I picked out three of my current favorite Irish whiskies for review.


EARTHBushmills 16 Year old, 40% ABV.  This is a single malt with a three wood influence; Bourbon, Oloroso and Port (A conscience does not prevent sin, it only prevents from enjoying it.).

Nose – Coco / coffee, raisins and almonds

Taste – Delicate sweetness, burnt toffee                        

Finish – Medium to long. Elegant

Assessment – First Irish malt whiskey I fell in love with. Always recommend this to others.


WATERRed Breast 12 Year old, 40 % ABV. Blended whiskey (A narrow neck keeps the bottle from being emptied in one swig.).

Nose – Apples, pears and succulent strawberries. Floral

Taste – Creamy vanilla. Complex and little spicy

Finish – Medium. Very balanced

Assessment – This is my 2nd favorite Irish blend. Good value considering the price is around $40-$50.


FIREJameson 2007 Rarest Vintage Reserve, 46 % ABV. Blended whiskey with older grain (23-24 years old) and malted and unmalted barley matured in bourbon and port casks (Lead me not into temptation as I can usually find it by myself.).

Nose – Sublime citrus notes, marshmallows. Fragrant

Taste – Layered cake. Elegant wine .Silky smooth.

Finish – Medium to long. . Brilliant stuff. Hats off to the blender on this one.

Assessment – Best Jameson I’ve ever had. Bit pricey, but worth it if you can afford it.