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  • Writer's picturePeter Miles

Bushmills 12-Year-Old.



Not far from the famous Royal Portrush Golf Club on the Northern Ireland coast sits the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world.


The distillery has a very long and checkered history. There is evidence of distillation in the area as far back as the 1200’s. Official distillation on or near the current site dates to a royal license that was issued in 1608. The distillery was closed for significant periods of time, often being acquired, and reopened under new ownership. The Bushmills Old Distillery Company itself was founded in 1784, when they took over and renamed the distillery. This distillery burnt down in 1885 and was rebuilt.


The distillery survived the USA Prohibition in the 1920’s. However, Irish Whiskey fortunes were in serious decline by the mid-20th century. The industry was all but gone when, in 1972, Bushmills was purchased by Irish Distillers, a new conglomerate that owned the only other operating Irish distillery in Midleton, County Cork. Since that time, the brand and distillery has been owned by Pernod Richard, Diageo and most recently by Promixo Spirits, owners of Jose Cuervo.


The distillery has made both blended and single malt whiskies for most of its history. The ‘Original Bushmills’ blended whiskey challenges Jameson as the quintessential Irish Whisky. The 12-year-old single malt has only recently been added to the core range of retail single malts.


Mash bill: 100% Malted Barley.


Batch Size: Unknown.


ABV = 40.0%. The minimum level. Surprising, given the promotion as a 'premium brand ‘


Matured: Matured in a mix of ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry barrels for 11+ years and then vatted and finished in Marsala Wine Casks for an additional 6 to 9 months.


Cost: $55 / 750ml bottle.


Color: Deep Copper 1.0 (Whisky Magazine Scale).


Swirl: Well defined narrow rim with just a few fine ‘legs’ forming at first. Rim puckers up beautifully, and very finely, with some merging and drifting down the glass.


Nose: Rich and quite sweet. A distinct fruitiness with berries and ripe pears. Sherry elements are also prominent. Hints of sweetbread, and vaguely bourbon like aromas with traces of light toffee. Pleasant well integrated aroma profile. Almost no alcohol prickle.


Taste: A little lighter in body and more subtle than the nose would suggest. Sweetness builds quickly, with golden castor sugar and rich red wine notes dominating throughout. Some malt, vanilla and a faint, dry nuttiness follow on, with gentle wood tannins developing late. Easy going sipper with some mild warmth.


Finish: On the short side, with the flavors fading quickly and just a generic sweetness lingering.


Verdict: A well-crafted whiskey showcasing the characteristics of the barrels used. Given the bargain price for a quality single malt this can be recommended, particularly if you are into sweet wine and sherry cask finishes.

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