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. Bushmills distills its malt and buys its grain whiskey from Midleton (makers of Jameson, among others). Thus, Bushmills is one of the few distilleries that sells both single-malt whiskey AND blended whiskey with the same brand name. See my review of Bushmills Original Blended Whiskey here and Black Bush blend here.
Like many Scottish distilleries, Bushmills ages its malt whiskey in a variety of casks. The 10-year is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso sherry casks (mostly ex-bourbon). Also like a few Scottish distilleries, Bushmills triple-distills its malt, leading to the characteristic Irish “light” flavor and body.
A note about the value proposition with this one: I was unable to nail down an average price, with stores right down the street from each other (here in Northern California) selling Bushmills 10 for $49 and $27, respectively. In my review below I indicate that you can do much better with $49, which is true, but if you can find it for under $30, it’s a reasonable value dram and my “Not Recommended” rating should be ignored.
Nose: Sharp nose, somewhat acidic (lemony). Some mild tropical fruit notes – green banana, kiwi, coconut – and a slight industrial edge, like Redbreast but less pleasant. Not much depth.
Palate: Syrupy body, with tons of fresh coconut meat. A downright Piña Colada at first. The flavors fade on the tongue, leaving only that industrial grime note.
Finish: On the short side. Remnants of coconut oil, charcoal, and something chemical – like glue. Not bitter, exactly, but the aftertaste is off-putting.
With Water: The addition of water freshens the tropical fruit notes on the nose (which had seemed to fade in the glass), adding perhaps an indistinct floral note or two. Otherwise, it is unchanged.
Overall: For nearly $50, I highly do not recommend this. It is run-of-the-mill in terms of unique flavors, and very shallow. It has a few Redbreast-like qualities, but without Redbreast’s depth of flavor and intensity. Any oloroso barrels involved in the maturation do not seem to have had an effect on the final product. You would be far, far better spending your money on Redbreast 12 or The Balvenie DoubleWood 12, or even Glenlivet 15 or Glenfiddich 15.
Good, honest review! At one time, maybe 5 or 6 yrs ago Bushmills 10 was a delight and then the owners tinkered with the age of whiskies used resulting in a weaker drink. Too bad.
Ah—”run of the MILL”? I get jokes.
Are you sure they make the grain whisky there too for their blends? I did the tour last year and I came away with the impression that they make only malt at Bushmills and theirs blends are therefor a combination of their own malt and grain from elsewhere (Midleton?). I don’t remember that specifically saying that now, though, so I could be mixed up.
You’re right! I had missed this when researching Bushmills. They apparently buy their grain whiskey from Midleton. Thanks for the correction! I’ve updated the post above.
Have you tried Bushmill 21? I didn’t think it came across as mature and complex as a typical 21 yr old. Didnt think it was worth the price. Was curious of your thoughts if you’ve tried it
I have not tried Bushmills 21, alas. Someday!
Your picture is not quite correct :-), Bushmills belongs to Nother Ireland, the one that belongs UK. And on my taste all “cheap” Bushmills whiskey is so-so. The only exception is Bushmills Blackbush, not exceptional but nice (around $35 in BevMo on Camden SJ).
Thanks for the comment, I’ll fix that image this weekend. I agree about Black Bush – surprisingly good for the price.
Map updated! Thanks for the note. (The geographical “category” for Bushmills is now “Ireland and Northern Ireland”, along with all the rest of the Irish whiskey on the site.)
I was quite disappointed in the ten year also: for most of the reason you were. I much prefer Black Bush: blended of course isn’t always a synonym for bad. When I can afford it the 16 year I love. I’ve had one bottle of the 21 and if you try it I doubt you will not like it a lot! Great review!