This is what happened to me with Black Bush Irish Whiskey from Bushmills. When the idea of a “flash blog” – in which bloggers around the world would write about one whiskey for St Patrick’s Day – was put forward by Johanne McInnis (aka: Whisky Lassie), and the decision for all of us to write about Black Bush was finalised, I thought: “Perfect! I’ve not yet tried that.”
Whether this means I’m becoming worryingly forgetful or drinking too much whiskey, is yet to be determined.
But, the other point is that it is always key to come back to a dram more than once because if you tend to like your whiskey (or whisky) and drink quite a few of them it can be great to refresh your brain (and palate) with its flavours.
And so, this is what I did – began reminding myself of its history and flavours.
To give you some background, Black Bush is a blended whiskey from the Bushmills distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland and is owned by Diageo. It is considered one of the oldest whiskey distilleries in the world, with an initial license apparently granted in 1608 by King James I (hence why each bottle carries the ‘1608’ label).
Its range includes the aforementioned Black Bush and Bushmills (also a blend) along with the 10, 16 and 21-year old single malts and a new flavoured honey whiskey.
If I’m honest, while I know the name well it is not a whiskey company I have come across often on my dram journey. While many other Irish whiskey brands have been throwing themselves out there with renovations and investment (Midleton, for instance, with a €100 million investment plan ongoing), Bushmills hasn’t been in the news as much.
Interestingly, in his book Whisky Opus, author Dominic Roskrow writes: “Diageo’s strategy for the Northern Irish distillery has been at best baffling and some whisky fans feel Bushmills has been let down. True, investment was made and capacity increased, but while many Irish whiskey stars have been shining brightly of late, Bushmills hasn’t been among them.”
But he continues: “Today Bushmills makes a range of whiskeys, none of which is anything less than excellent. Indeed, the rich and sherried ‘Black Bush’ has given Jameson a run for its money in the past. Drinking any Bushmills in the warmth of the distillery is one of the whisky world’s greatest pleasures.”
It is, therefore, now firmly on my list to get to know better. And, also on my list to visit, since I’ve not been to Northern Ireland yet on my travels.
But, back to the whiskey. This St Patrick’s Day you’ll be hearing a heck of a lot more about Bushmills if you’re tuned into the ‘blogger-verse’ as there are a whole schwak of us writing about Black Bush today.
Now, onto the whiskey and what it actually tastes like.
The whiskey is available globally and is normally very reasonably priced (around £20-£25 in the UK). It is made from a majority of single malt – matured in ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks for between 7-10 years – and grain whiskey.
Here are my new notes on this dram:
(N): Initial marzipan thickness with notes of honey and stewed berries (blackcurrent and blackberry), along with a side of raspberries in full summer ripeness. Slightly grainy (I could imagine chewing this just from the nose) with dashes of lemon icing and coffee grounds that come through on second smell, cutting through some of the sweetness. Buttery and brambley. Very different from the first time I smelled it.
(P): That sweetness dissipates slightly when tasting, to – for me – be replaced by more of the bitter coffee ground notes I picked up on the nose. At first, it hints of plum puddings and raspberry cake, then blackcurrents. But that is replaced by what reminds me of the taste of chewing on bramble fruit stems and coffee beans – drying, woody, astringent. Those flavours aren’t to the extreme, mind, but I was taken aback by these heavier notes that emerged on my palate. Another sip eases those, and the fruitiness takes a bigger step to centre stage.
(F): Quite light, but with continuing aspirin-like bitter notes that rest at the back of the tongue.
So, there you have it. Black Bush is one that will have large appeal to many whiskey drinkers. It’s sweet and rich, with enough oomph to make it stand out.
And so, to conclude, on this St Patrick’s Day I hope you join me in raising a dram of Irish Whiskey wherever you are in the world.