Friday, October 9, 2009

Bushmills Black Bush

Bushmills Black Bush
I’ve always felt that Irish whisky never quite gets the respect it so richly deserves. What I mean is that people who go to the local liquor store in search of a whisky as a gift often reach for scotch, much like people who know little about wine automatically reach for French wine. Just as there are many great wines produced outside of France, the same can be said of great whisky being found outside of Scotland. Ireland is a case in point.

Bushmills Black Bush is one of a number of whiskies produced by the distiller, Old Bushmills Distillery, located in the village of Bushmills, in the county of Antrim, Northern Ireland. The claim to fame of this distillery is its age. It was founded in 1784 and needless to say with such a long history, they have perfected the production of fine whisky.

Irish Whisky versus Scotch
In general, the most obvious difference between Irish whisky and scotch is the lack of peat and smoke in the former. This is due to the lack of peat during the distillation process. There is an exception of course to this generalization, Connemara Peated Irish Malt has peat and smoke flavors.

Black Bush is made up primarily of single malts and the remainder with grain whiskies. The majority of single malts used in this blended whisky results in a rich dram with big rounded flavors of chocolate and malt that is memorable, but subdued at the same time.

No age is stated, but I am convinced that the whiskies making up this spirit are in the vicinity of ten years. There is a real depth of character to this whisky. While it is aged in former Oloroso sherry casks, it is not what I would characterize as a sherried whisky. A small percentage of grain whisky is blended to give it a sweet character. This is a sweet whisky but not overly so.

Serving Suggestion
This is too fine to use in a mixed drink. This is deserving of being consumed neat or with a little water or ice. This tasting note was based on a neat serving.

Nose (undiluted)
Restrained. No over-the-top aromas wafting up. Instead, nosing this whisky will result in the enjoyment of delicate, soft notes of malt, warm fruitcake and molten chocolate.

Palate (undiluted)
Smooth, sweet chocolate mousse introduction followed by a nuttiness, think of cashews and brazil nuts. Next comes some spiciness, but not to the point of being peppery. The spiciness rests upon a malty background mixed with some dark fruitcake. Really intriguing. This is medium bodied.

Finish (undiluted)
Medium to short finish. Chocolate mousse again, oak and soft spices combine to be gentle and never offensive. No bite on the palate. Nice, but relatively short lingering warmth of spice box upon the palate rounds out this taste experience.

Final Thoughts
Rich, mildly sophisticated, but not so special that you cannot properly enjoy it in the presence of friends in a pub. Put another away, you can drink this casually and marvel at its smooth yet gentle spices, without thinking I am wasting my money by not paying more attention to it. This is not Royal Salute, Johnnie Walker Blue or Ballantines 17, all of which cannot be tossed back casually in a pub, unless you are a billionaire. The very reasonable price of Bushmills Black Bush makes it accessible.

Black Bush is not very complex. The flavors are pretty obvious: chocolate, malt, hazelnut and caramel. For this reason, I cannot descibe this whisky as overly sophisticated. The flavor profile is not as simple as the Bushmills White Label, but not too great a departure either.

In conclusion, this is a great blended whisky that every whisky/scotch drinker should try. It's easy going, not offensive and great for social occasions. I would give this as a gift to the casual whisky drinker. If I was buying a gift for the serious whisky fan, I would not choose Bushmills Black Bush because the flavors roll out in a very simplistic fashion.


© Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved.


  1. Hi Jason,
    Last weekend I had the opportunity to try Jameson's (no age I think). I expected to not like it since it was a inexpensive blend of Irish (which I haven't tried). I was quite surprised that I liked it. This had to be the smoothest whiskey I've had neat. No alcohol fumes, a gentle sweetness, and even some lingering finish complexity. Kind of like an after-dinner drink instead of desert.
    After reading about the Bushmills, I'm wondering if Irish whiskey is all about smoothness...
    Have you found a favorite Irish or ones you like best that I should try?

  2. Ripley, you are correct! Irish whisky tends to be very smooth. Many are triple distilled. The standard bottling of Bushmills (the white label) has got to be the smoothest whisky out there that is still pleasant and a little interesting.

    Jameson (no age stated) is not bad, but frankly, Bushmills Blackbush is better. Try it! You will not be disappointed.

    Cheers and thanks for the comment!


  3. Jason,

    Thanks for the post and the blog. I really enjoyed reading this and have since started reading all of your entries and taking up some of your recommendations.

    I'm new to scotch and didn't really know what I was doing. Thanks to your blog, I know have a little better understanding of scotch whiskey and more confidence when it comes to ordering scotch whiskey at a bar.

    Thanks and Cheers!


  4. Hey Luke! Thanks for reading and thanks for posting.

    Scotch is all about taste. Your taste! Explore and you will soon learn what you like and dislike.

    Drinking scotch can be somewhat intimidating because of all the people who start arrogantly pontificating on this single malt or that one and how all blends are inferior. Nonsense! Don't be bullied by such nonsense. Explore and relish in the adventure!



  5. Jason
    Thanks for the blog. I was having a Black Bush and decided to google the term and bang, I was here. I think your review is right on - perfect for a couple of drinks here at home after the kids and wife are asleep to toast St. Patrick's Day. Keep up the good work.

  6. Glad you enjoy the site! Hope to see you hear again.


  7. I disagree for what it's worth - I prefer Jameson 1st, Bushmills white 2nd and bushmills black bush 3rd. Bushmills black bush tastes the closest to scotch of the three to me and I don't yet appreciate the flavour notes of scotch.

    Other unsophisticated tasters such as I may benefit from this opposing view.

  8. Black bush was the first Irish whiskey I ever tried. In fact, it was the first Irish or Scotch I had ever tried. I knew I liked it, but I guess I didn't know how it compared to others. Well since, I have tried many different labels, including some very expensive American Bourbons, Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskies, etc.

    Whereas Black Bush is not my absolute favorite, It is a very good whiskey and for the price, I am not sure I have found something better. I also happen to like the Bushmills16 yr single malt. It is really good, but has a bit of a funny after taste. I really like it though.

    Just wanted to put in my 2 cents for one of my all time favorites and "everyday drinkers". Bushmills got me interested in Irish and Scotch labels, and still holds up now that my palate has been somewhat spoiled. It may not be sophisticated but it sure is smooth and tasty.


  9. Just wanted to clarify. Old Bushmills Distillery was actually established around 1784. The 1608 on the label refers to the year County Antrim (where Bushmills is located) was granted a license to distill.

    1. Thank you for pointing out the error. I have made the change. Much appreciated!

    2. Oh, you might want to add a footnote about the 1608 license to distill since the photo of the bottle shows that year very clearly on the label and it might get confusing.

    3. my 31019712 miniature excellent. i still smell the empty bottle. so nice. it like jack danils cask deeped in soft sherry. bought 700ml 31019705. bitter, rubbing alcohol, don't take off. just letting people now. I am on the look out for another Irish but i want it to have corn in the grain mix with the malt. Bushmills uses 20% small batch grain and it 100% corn i think.

  10. would Jason know if matching those numbers you get the same batch. like not one on the bitter side and less oak fresh side. Hey according to bushmills faq all there products are gluten free.

  11. Great whiskey for the price. Just 28 USD in this part of the World. Beautiful nose, fresh, reminds me of apples and women perfume. Chocolate and sherry on the palate. Short to medium finish with slight afterburn from the "green" barley whiskey in the blend. They advertise this as 80% single malt in the blend, but i'm not convinced. Overall, excellent whiskey.
    I bought "The World Atlas of Whiskey" book. A great read, very informative and comprehensive. I recommend it to every whiskey enthusiast.