Since switching from drinking beer to whiskey, I’ve held a place in my heart for Bushmills’ Black Bush Irish whiskey. My drinking preferences changed long before my budget, so finding whiskeys that met my tastes and my wallet was a challenge. Then I found Black Bush, which provided a terrific option for drinking out (when I could find it!). My previous go-to was Chivas Regal 12 Scotch. Chivas typically sits at the lower end of the bar price spectrum while retaining sufficient quality to ensure an enjoyable evening (far superior to nearly all well-whiskeys). I still order it frequently because not everyone carries Black Bush.
Although it’s a non-age-stated (NAS) blended Irish whiskey, it boasts high malt content (purportedly 80% or more). It’s triple distilled, aged “up to” eight years (according to the website) initially in ex-fill bourbon casks, and then finished in ex-fill oloroso sherry casks. It’s bottled at 40% ABV, providing minimal alcohol burn, and nicely suited to sipping neat or (G*d forbid) in a cocktail. It pours bright golden amber with moderate viscosity, immediately releasing a familiar Bushmills aroma pattern with the addition of malt and sherry complexity. Swirling releases layered notes of warmed raisins, oatmeal cookies, orange-slice candies, brown sugar, caramel sauce, cinnamon-roasted hazelnuts, and barrel spice.
It has a pleasantly soft, round mouthfeel with rich sweetness and an after-hint of bitterness. Forward flavors include raisins, dried figs, fresh dates, caramel, honey, winter spices, and dark chocolate. Secondary flavors include cooked barley, creamed coffee, fresh Sveskestang, orange zest, and a hint of wood in the background. The finish is quite soft, with a fairly quick fade, but it does offer mildly lingering sherry-cask spice, sweetness, and a short raisin kiss.
Bushmills Black Bush won’t replace a dram of 25-year-old The Macallan or even The Dalmore Cigar Malt. Still, given that a full bottle of Black Bush runs about the same price as a teaspoon of the former or a thimble full of the latter, it’s a quality quaff for a casual outing or as a daily drinker. I always have a bottle at home, and it’s my first request when I’m out. Sadly, not every bar stocks it, although I’d argue they should. For about the same price as Chivas Regal 12, it’s a great whiskey, especially if you like a sherry bomb.