It’s always been my goal to wander the lush green hills of Ireland and naturally explore their world whiskey. Ever since I first had a taste of the golden, Irish drams, I felt the need to explore more and more. When I was about 22, and still very new to the whiskey world, I had really only played around with Jameson and not too much else. In truth I was a little timid at the prospect of this journey, but took the leap anyways. One question though that still follows me to this day when talking to people that never seems to go away is one along the lines of “so….Southern or Northern Ireland?”
As this question pertains to Irish whiskey history, and not just Irish history in general is in fact quite complex. To make things short, Northern Ireland has had a bit of a black mark due to a rather violent history, but that is another matter altogether. I’ll get right to it, I say i’d like to visit Northern Ireland on the grounds of wanting to explore their whiskeys and what they have to offer. For example, they have the longest standing license to make whiskey in the history of the country, at the Old Bushmills Distillery. For those of you that know (or don’t know) it says 1608 on the top of the label and that is true, however what you may not know is that the land Bushmills rests upon was granted permission by King James the 1st to a Sir Thomas Phillips who was the Governor of Co. Antrim at the time, to make whiskey. The company that Bushmills would later become wasn’t actually established until 1784 by Hugh Anderson four years, in fact, after Jameson.
I have many family members who typically scowl in my direction anytime I mention the name Bushmills. They claim that they’ve had a “bad experience with it”, or something to that effect. This may have been the case for you or your friends, taking a stand for or against this legendary whiskey. If the argument is one relating to the idea of Bushmills being a Protestant’s whiskey, and Jameson being a Catholic’s, then i’m here to tell you that those kinds of reasons are not good ones. While geographically these distilleries are located in regions that are mostly one or the other, history says that John Jameson was a Scottish protestant and also that these companies traded barrels and whiskeys with each other all the time, not to mention that Bushmills got on board with the other Irish distillers to change the course of Irish whiskey.
Bushmills history is rather interesting for many reasons, from the myths about them vs. Jameson, to the many times it had to close down, and re-open, due to the many different owners of the company, a fire that destroyed the building and of course bombings in WWII which destroyed parts of the buildings along with most of their records. In truth, at least for me, Bushmills is quite a good whiskey, possessing many unique expressions. You have the Original (white label) which is a blend, much like many Irish whiskies and is 3 years old, the recent Red Bush (red label) which is just the original but aged for 3 years solely in bourbon barrels, Black Bush (see where I am going?) which is aged slightly longer, but in Olorosso sherry casks. Then you move forward to their single malts; I love these editions because, generally speaking, I enjoy Single Malt more so than blends, and almost as much as Single Pot Still Irish whiskeys mind you…
For Bushmills’ Single Malt range, they have a 10 year old (which i’m about to touch on!) aged in bourbon and Olorosso sherry casks, the 16 year which was aged in bourbon barrels, Olorosso sherry casks & port casks, and finally the 21 year which was aged in bourbon barrels, Olorosso sherry casks and Madeira casks for its finally two years of maturation. I have gifted some of my family these single malts before, and they’ve found them to be quite nice despite their previous statements about having a bias against Bushmills. I would urge any viewer here to go out and give any one of these a try; the worst that could happen is that you don’t like them, and that’s fine. However, if you’re as open minded about whiskey as I think you are, then perhaps you may find something to like about them…
With that in mind, lets get into the Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt!
Bushmills 10 Year Single Malt
ABV: 40% // 80 proof
Age: 10 Years
Mash Bill: 100% Malted Barley
Casks: Bourbon & Olorosso Sherry
Color: Pale Gold
Nose: Right away you get soft touches of honey, sweet spices and some floral notes coming through. Definitely some toasty wood notes as well. A very clean nose, pleasant and fragrant. Lightly fruity overall.
Palate: Very little burn on the way down. Lots of vanilla notes are here, slight citrus – either orange or lemon. Some cinnamon here too, creamy chocolate and a bit of almonds & walnuts along with sweet malt and more honey.
Finish: The finish is light and short – medium in length and, surprisingly, isn’t very long with it’s final moments leading towards honeyed spices and hints of brown sugars. The vanilla is there but it isn’t trying to steal the show, rather making a guest appearance, before bowing out.
I had given a lot of thought to trying this with a splash of water but I had decided against it because of how low the ABV is (40%), which isn’t a bad thing, but for me this would have watered it down further than I would of liked for such a light whiskey. If you’re more accustomed to having whiskey with water, then feel free to add it as needed, but I feel confident that you’ll likely find it unnecessary. If Bushmills ever wanted to release a cask strength expression of any sort, I could definitly see argument for adding water.
Bourbon and House Rating: 89
This is an overall good whiskey and a great example of a fine Irish single malt whiskey. It’s a little lighter than most i’ve had before, and I usually look for more full-bodied whiskeys just because they have more going on with them. But by no means am I leaning in the direction of discouraging one from trying this whiskey – please try a glass should the opportunity present itself. If you aren’t used to lighter bodied whiskeys, then this will come as a bit of a surprise to you but Bushmills 10 is a fantastic introduction to Irish Single Malt whiskey.
Drinks on me if I see ya!