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Bushmills, which is touted as being the oldest licensed whiskey distillery, is best known for its affordable blend, Bushmills Original. But only single malt whiskey is actually produced at the distillery, which just doubled its production to meet increasing demand. We got an early preview of the new Private Reserve series, a series of four single malt whiskeys that are finished in different types of casks.
For years, Irish single malt has been ignored by many whiskey drinkers in favor of single malt scotch, but that is starting to change. There are newer distilleries like Waterford that are exclusively producing Irish single malt with a focus on the effects of terroir on flavor, but Bushmills has been at it for centuries. While a whiskey license was issued to someone in the area to make whiskey back in 1608, Bushmills as we know it has been making whiskey in Northern Ireland near the Giant’s Causeway since the late 1700s—which is still pretty old. Last year, the distillery opened the new Causeway Distillery, doubling its single malt production in a sleek and modern facility.
Master blender Alex Thomas is the woman behind the new Private Reserve lineup, which consists of four age-statement whiskeys that are each finished in a different type of cask, and are much more affordable than you might think. Each of the 10-year-old whiskeys was aged for six years in bourbon and sherry casks before being finished for four years, while the 12-year-old spent equal time initially maturing and finishing. We got to sample each of the new whiskeys at a recent tasting, and the details are as follows.
The first whiskey is a 10-year-old single malt finished in plum brandy casks sourced from Alsace, France and is bottled at 92 proof. This was a standout of the series, with sweet notes of fruit, vanilla, toffee, and honey on the palate. The second is a 10-year-old single malt finished in Pomerol Bordeaux wine barrels (93 proof), with a tannic hit up front followed by notes of blackberry, spice, and leather. The third whiskey is a 10-year-old single malt finished in Grand Cru Burgundy casks from Côte d’Or (94 proof), leading with more tannic oak and followed by cocoa, dark chocolate, and fresh raspberry notes. Lastly, there’s a 12-year-old single malt finished in tequila casks (95 proof). This is another interesting one, aged in barrels that presumably came from one of the Jose Cuervo family brands since Bushmills and Cuervo are both owned by Proximo Spirits. There are notes of pineapple, vanilla, caramel, and black pepper on the palate, resulting in a very intriguing take on Bushmills.
Bushmills Private Reserve is a limited-edition release, with the 10-year-old whiskeys going for $60 and the 12-year-old for $75, all of which will be available to purchase from ReserveBar. Look out for more to come in the new year, including new Private Reserve releases and the launch of the ultra-premium Rare Cask #4 single malt.