Bushmill’s Blended Whiskey: 40% abv
Background: Bushmills is a distillery you probably know, being the counterpoint to Jameson. Bushmills real claim to fame is being founded in 1608, over 400 years ago. Not many distillers can say that. Sir Thomas Phillipps got the license to distill in that year, making Bushmills the “undisputed” oldest distillery in the world. This being said, the company wasn’t established fully until 1784, so the numbers might be a bit misleading. Production capacities at Bushmills don’t hold a candle to Midleton’s, but that might account for the difference in quality…Bushmills has a mixture of slightly peated and unpeated barleys that they use, as well as a unique crystalized barley (moist barley that is heated at high temperatures so it dries and converts starches to sugar, caramelizing the barley). The grain whiskey used in Bushmills blends actually comes from Midleton distillery. Diageo, the owner of Bushmills has been pushing to increase sales more than double in the next few years, and that is a scary thought. Onto the tasting notes.
Nose: The nose in here is distinctly dominated by an under-ripened pear rind, with vegetal notes of wet grass and fresh greens. There is an earthy fruit note associated with the pear, with mild apple sweetness in accompaniment. There are slight vanilla and honey notes, as well as a floral note (maybe violet?) with a subtle backdrop of saltiness.
Arrival: The arrival is not the most eventful part of the whiskey, with a very smooth entry. It has an alcohol-like initial mouth-feel, with some mild vanilla and ginger/nutmeg spiciness coming through very timidly. It is followed by an unconvincing bitterness that follows into the body.
Body: The body is spicier than the arrival, with some hot notes and bitter black pepper to dry it out. It contrasts this with some sweet honey and pear notes, although it is still quite like the arrival. It doesn’t leave a lasting impact.
Finish: This follows the body with a much larger sweetness, pulling lemon, apple, and pear sweetness out. There are some minor complexities to the finish as well though, including a tiny peat smokiness, some ginger aftertaste, and a very impactful vegetal aftertaste, giving you the impression of green barley.
Nose: The nose in this one changes substantially after just a bit of water. The pear peel is still a strong note, but it initially appears to be slightly more vegetal, even a bit oily and nutty as well. These subtleties will diminish with time though.
Arrival: The arrival after the addition of water is initially mellow and promotes vanilla, with some serious sweetness, very close to what you’d experience from rock candy.
Body: The rock candy sweetness keeps going in the body of the whiskey after the arrival melds into your mouth. The body doesn’t promote an extreme difference, but you can tell the sweetness is amplified.
Finish: You might go so far as to say there is a tequila-like agave presence in the finish after adding some water, although close to honey. Even some bourbon-like maple notes come through. The fruity/sugary finish is bold, almost over dominant now, commandeering any attention from the complex notes you might have caught before. There is still a small “zestiness” to the finish which could raise a few eyebrows.
Final Comments: Unfortunately, there is no option but to compare this to Jameson Blended Irish Whiskey. They are at the same price point, marketed to the same people, and drank exactly the same. I would like to suggest that this is wrong, but in some way, it is the only thing promoting some sense of quality between these two distilleries. Which one do we think is better? In my mind, Bushmill’s is undoubtedly the winner of this fight, with much more complexity, a more refined taste, and some interesting perks to it. That being said, I also believe it doesn’t compete with Kilbeggan, and that’s a theme we keep going back to. To go even further, KCM believes that Black Bush is the better alternative to both of these choices, and you aren’t paying that much more. For the drinker looking for an easy sipper, I think you’d be surprised with how this sips neat with a controlled portion of water.
Why you’d buy it: You’re going to buy Bushmills or Jameson, and Black Bush is “too expensive”
Why you wouldn’t: You’ve tried Black Bush and realize it’s worth the extra ___ dollars.