Bushmills is an odd duck. One of the few remaining historical Irish distilleries (in fact the oldest licensed distillery in the world), Bushmills makes single-malt and blends it with grain whiskey in the Scottish style.
Black Bush is probably the most successful inexpensive blended whisky on the market that I’ve had, with the sole exception of Bank Note… If you haven’t settled on an Irish Whiskey for your “everyday” dram or cocktail cabinet yet, give this one a serious look.
Until then the company is selling sourced and finished whiskies such as this one, a rum-finished Irish whiskey of unknown origin. It is a blend, with 35% malt and 65% grain aged somewhere between 4 and 7 years. The vatted blend is then finished for 4 to 6 months in Flor de Caña rum casks, an unusual touch.
Yellow Spot is Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey matured for 12 years in a combination of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and ex-Malaga (a sweet Spanish fortified wine) casks. The vatted result is bottled without chill-filtration at 46% ABV.
The current Kilbeggan is a blend of Cooley grain whiskey and malt whiskey. This differentiates it from other Irish blends like Jameson and Powers, which contain Irish single pot-still whiskey instead of just malt. Kilbeggan is aged for at least 3 years (or “sometimes longer”) in ex-bourbon barrels at the warehouse at the old Kilbeggan site.
While it has the same mouth-filling unctuousness as Redbreast, the sherry notes seem to cover up the nutty/oily notes I associate with single pot still whiskey. There seems to be a lot of depth here, but it’s hidden by a layer of simplicity. One must really search for the complexity.
This isn’t awful. It’s a simple, single-note dram with no complexity, but not as faulty as others at this price point. The black pepper on the nose is interesting, and the raw grain whiskey doesn’t announce itself on the tongue like other competitors do.
The syrah barrels do serve to elevate it somewhat – particularly on the nose – but are not able to mask the blandness of the whiskey. If nothing else, this is a very inexpensive way to get some vaguely interesting Irish whiskey.
For the price, this is eminently drinkable straight. Certainly it’s not going to win any awards, but with a pleasant lemon nose, nutty/cereal on the palate, and no “cheap blended” aspect in the finish, this is an easy value.
At once hectic and well-packaged, it demonstrates the intense concentration of flavor possible at cask strength while also showcasing the finer notes of damn fine pot-still Irish whiskey.