A staple that has seen a few revamps over the years, Bushmills Black Bush played a small role in my early whisky days. Although, small is an overstatement. I once bought a bottle after seeing an advertisement in Empire Magazine. It didn’t leave much of an impression then, and Bushmills never worked its way into my regular whisky diet.
But I recently had the opportunity to visit the distillery. (Those of you who follow me on Instagram will likely have noticed.) It’s an impressive operation led by master blender Alex Thomas, whose enthusiasm was contagious. Bushmills’ core range of single malt came across well, although it’s a pity they insist on bottling most of it at a measly 40%. Most probably a disservice to the quality of their spirit, I think.
Black Bush is a different beast. As in, it’s not a single malt, but rather a blended whisky, albeit one with a high proportion of single malt – around 80%. The grain whisky is reportedly sourced from Midleton Distillery, which makes sense, because once upon a time both Bushmills and Midleton were owned by Irish Distillers. The age of the single malt component is said to be up to 8 years, while the grain whisky might be a tad older.
The most recent relaunch of Bushmills Black Bush (in 2021) saw the tagline ‘Sherry Cask Reserve’ added to the label. Now, Bushmills has always proudly proclaimed Black Bush’s sherry-forward maturation, so the recipe likely hasn’t changed. It’s just that sherry-matured whisky sells, so I suppose displaying it prominently on the packaging is the smart thing to do.
Bushmills Black Bush Sherry Cask Reserve (40%, OB, 2023)
Nose: Plenty of elegant fruity notes. Think peaches, sweet wine gums, stewed apples and orange zest, but there’s also a delicate floral influence. Touches of honey and breakfast cereals too. Very well-balanced. Taste: A tad weak, but that’s no surprise. Hints of caramel apple custard and golden syrup, but with a touch of bitter oak, nutmeg, and cloves. Also a whisper of orange liqueur. Finish: Short. Lingering spices and fudge. Finally a touch of grainy pear.
There's a discrepancy between the nose and palate, the former enjoyable and airy while the latter lacks a certain fruitiness. Having said that, Bushmills Black Bush is available for less than 20 euro. That's dirt cheap, and it doesn't taste like it. In short, this Irish blend offers value for money.