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.