Bushmills Black Bush Blended Irish Whiskey

Black Bush surprised me. I expected the usual response that entrenched businesses (blended whisky) have to perceived threats (innovation in craft whisky): pale imitation. Instead I found a very drinkable, very accomplished, very well-balanced approach to a sherried blend. The fruit notes that you expect, in a package that mixes extraordinarily well with both cocktail ingredients and ice. Oh, and it’s damn cheap.

I actually keep coming back to the bottle of Black Bush that I bought on a whim. At first for cocktail fodder, and then for something to splash into a glass of ice. I even bought a second bottle (rare for me).

Black Bush is, according to Bushmills, a blend of 80% malt whiskey to 20% grain whiskey, a particularly high percentage of malt for a blend under $40. The whiskey is aged “up to” 7 years in a combination of oloroso sherry casks and ex-bourbon casks. The result is obviously sherry-influenced, but not overly sweet or fruity.

It’s bottled at 40% ABV. Note that Black Bush was previously aged more in the neighborhood of 11 years, and has since lost some of that maturity, probably as of the most recent bottling revamp. Really, though, it’s still quite good for the price.
Nose: A gentle sherry presence greets the nose – with fresh apple cider, young fruity red wine, and champagne grapes. A hint of cereal grains and bakery goods, like scones, but not overly sweet.

Palate: Mild and thin. A bit of grape jelly, and more non-sweet baked goods… English muffins? Otherwise, same notes as on the nose. A bit sweeter on the tongue – with more caramel than anticipated. A hint of acetone, but only a hint.

Finish: Medium-long. The grain is more present here, with a bite of young, medicinal grain alcohol, but that passes quickly and the finish fades pleasantly with grape skins and red wine tannins.

With Water: A splash of water wakes up more fruit notes, with red currants, unripe figs, and dried cranberries. However, it makes the palate dreadfully thin and watery. At 40% ABV, this hardly requires watering. Note that while Black Bush makes quite nice cocktails and is excellent on the rocks, it does suffer a little from melting ice. Try a large ice cube or a straight-up cocktail rather than something with a lot of water.

Overall: Black Bush is probably the most successful inexpensive blended whisky on the market that I’ve had, with the sole exception of Bank Note which wins only because it has a lot more round caramel and stands up to mixing better. I vastly prefer Black Bush to Bushmills Original, Bushmills 10 year-old single malt, and any other blended Irish whiskey that I’ve had, including the similar Concannon, aged in red wine casks. If you haven’t settled on an Irish Whiskey for your “everyday” dram or cocktail cabinet yet, give this one a serious look.

Bushmills Black Bush Blended Irish Whiskey
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $30 - $39
Acquired: 750ml bottle, BevMo San Jose, $33 (on sale)

Share This!

  • Hey excellent review, I just got a bottle yesterday and I do agree with you it’s probably one of the best blends I’ve ever had. Especially for $30 CAD, I live in Calvary. It’s definitely going to take a place with my JWB as apart of my daily dram.

    Great review!

    PS. I tried to find banknote but couldn’t, do you know if they sell them in Canada?

  • I’ve never had blackbush yet I’m gonna have to pick some up after reading this review. I was wondering if you tried the Irishman Founder’s Reserve yet, that is the best blended whiskey I’ve ever had, it’s a blend of only single malt and pot still whiskey, I believe it is 70 percent single malt and 30 percent pot still, a beautiful whiskey!!!

  • Aaahhh… there’s nowt wrong with a wee dram o’ whisky! It’s the only alhoocl I drink and being drunk on that is much more pleasant than being drunk on beer… but maybe that’s just my metabolism!Whisky is believed to have originated in Ireland and at some point some Irishmen went to Scotland where it took off, so Scotland rather than Ireland is usually renowned as the home of whisky.So I guess all this whisky business is merely Roisin acknowledging her Irish heritage.

  • Tried it based on your review. It is excellent, actually the first blended scotch I ever bought so I was a bit scared to find harschness I’m not used to (my daily rotation is Balvenie DW, HP12, Ardbeg 10, Rittenhouse 100, Laphroaig 10 and 18, Aberlour A’bunadh). Did not know it was possible to find something with that character and that quality for less than $30 (apart from some decent bourbons and rye)

    • Thanks for the comment, Cedric! Technically, the Bushmills is blended Irish Whiskey, not a scotch (scotch can only be made in Scotland), but it is very similar to blended scotch (same types of ingredients). I agree, it’s quite a good whiskey for a great price. Cheers!

  • I just bought this today as a cheap everyday whiskey, based on this review and I must say that to me it’s just a mellower, bland, cheap Irish whiskey, fit for mixing perhaps.
    I’ll stick to Black Label for a cheap blend which may be a little too round but at least the alcohol quality is much better.
    I should have spent the extra few bucks

  • I did get some good information from this review. I learned the blend had 80% malt and 20% grain. The rest was rubbish. There’s no way any regular Joe can distinguish all those “hints” of flavors. It’s ‘effing impossible. No offense but this review comes across as high hifalutin gobbledygook pulled out of a tipsy tush. A blend is either good not. It’s all subjective. Reading this shit doesn’t make you a connoisseur. Go with your gut. Your either like it or you don’t. After my first sip, I thought Black Bush was the nectar of the gods. I loved it. Then I read this review. Now I wonder if I’m supposed to have my pinky sticking our when I drink it.

  • Great review! I really like this stuff and for the price its my Irish equivalent of Wild Turkey 101 as a daily drinker. I also prefer it to the ten year (which I heard was the Master Distillers favorite) . The 16 is wonderful and the 21 exception but roughly $80 and $130 are more weekend drinks for me.

  • Nice review, after having read one that rated it only ‘C’. I just found some on sale, having must first old-fashioned right now, and am liking it. I like smooth but flavorful and that’s what it is.. Got it on sale for less than $20 and like you, will probably pick up another bottle before the sale ends in a couple weeks. Must try indeed!

  • Travelling to Scotland and I would like to get my friend back home a gift. I know he likes Black Bush. If I were to get him some scotch, what might he like?

    • If he likes Black Bush, he’s probably good with “fruity” flavors (from sherry cask aging) in whisky. There aren’t nearly as many “UK Exclusive” bottles as there used to be, except for expensive ($150+) independent bottlings, rare luxury limited-release bottles, or distillery exclusives that you can only buy at the distillery. The only “mainstream” scotch that I can think of that isn’t available in the US is Glenfiddich Rich Oak (14 year). That’s probably a safe bet if you want something UK-only. Another option is Travel Retail (Duty Free), where just about every distillery has one or more exclusive bottles that are only available there. I don’t travel much, so I haven’t reviewed any of them. Internet consensus is that they’re fun, but none of them are essential. Still, they can’t be purchased in the US except in an International airport while holding a ticket for an international flight. Lastly, if you just want a bottle of scotch for your friend and don’t need it to be UK-exclusive, you could get The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 year, Glenlivet 15, Glenfiddich 15 Solera, anything from Macallan in your price range, or GlenDronach 12 year. Cheers!

    • Really, nothing is quite like Black Bush. You could try Redbreast 12 year, which is better but also equivalently more expensive. There have been a number of other Irish whiskies that have been aged in a variety of fruity casks – look at Tyrconnell’s many many expressions for example – but none of them have the same quality-to-price ratio that Black Bush has.

  • Gotta say I’m really enjoying your website and for the most part we seem to have similar tastes. Definitely in disagreement with you on this one though. I’ve been hitting bourbons and Irish whiskys lately because of the value for money they offer. For whatever reason though I really didn’t enjoy this one, just feels “unfinished” lacking its own character. Wild Turkey is 9 euros cheaper (bought both) and, for me, was far superior. I will still trust your opinion going forward, just thought I’d post this as it’s the first time our tastes have been so far apart. I’ll give it another try next week.