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I was given a bottle of Black Bush Irish Whiskey for Christmas by a friend of mine who knows I'm partial to a tipple (or two) of whiskey. However, I had never heard - and hence never tried - Black Bush Irish Whiskey before - until last weekend when my partner and I opened the bottle with some friends and decided to sample what it had to offer.
This is a blended whiskey and my preference does tend to be for single malts as I find the taste much smoother. Having said this, I wouldn't actually even know that Black Bush was a blended whiskey, except for the fact that it tells you that on the bottle! It tastes incredibly smooth and velvety as it slips down - and it left me feeling like I'd just tasted something very special. The flavour has a depth to it that is often not found in other blends. Yes, it is a strong and distinguished flavour, but it is not like those cheaper whiskies where a strong taste means that it is very overpowering and without character. I'd describe this whiskey as meeting a stranger and yet finding you can sit and chat with him all night and not feel the need to escape! There are flavours within it which tastes like hints of cherry and apricot, blended with something slightly citrousy to give it another dimension that you're not expecting.
I drank this with a good fillet steak and vegetables - and the pairing went very nicely. Word to the wise though......this whiskey is 80% proof and believe me after a couple of glasses there really is nothing you wouldn't do! A 70cl bottle costs around £23 online (I haven't been able to find anywhere that sells it locally to me).
There is a little Irish bar in Glasgow, hidden away far from the madding crowds of the city centre or west end, where the house whisky is Black Bush. It's just around the corner from where I live, and I'm not going to shout about it. For just £1.75 you can sit back on the leatherette banquette, watch the Friday night unfold and savour this remarkable blended Irish whisky.
English by birth, I've lived in both Northern Ireland and Scotland. Perhaps strangely, I never touched a drop of whiskey while I was living in Ulster, and only started to appreciate Scotch malts once I'd settled in Glasgow. And while I adore the big, beefy punch of the Islay malts or the aromatic sweetness of Wick's Old Pulteney, I still prefer my whiskey to have an 'e' in it, and for it to come from Northern Ireland's only remaining distillery.
The Old Bushmills Distillery was founded in 1608 and now operates under the ownership of the multinational drinks corporation Diageo. The distillery is open to the public for most of the year and offers excellent tours of the entire production facilities: you'll find it on the stunning North Antrim coast, not far from the Giant's Causeway.
Novices to Bushmills range should note where Black Bush fits into the complete range of currently produced whiskeys from the distillery. Bushmills Original is a less expensive blended whiskey; Black Bush is a premium blend; the 10, 12, 16 and 21 old year malts are of varying complexity due to their age and maturation process. The very limited Bushmills 1608 celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the distillery, and is now only available to purchase in the distillery shop.
So Black Bush is a blend, but what a blend. It is a majority blend of single malt whiskey which has been distilled three times and then aged in Spanish sherry casks for eight to ten years. That maturation in the sweetly scented casks develops the rich, fruity taste that hints of red wine. It is remarkably confident and strong yet very smooth. It just glides down, perhaps more smoothly than any other Irish blend. The after taste is difficult to describe: I don't always agree with the common suggestion of liquorice because I don't like liquorice(!), but it's certainly deep and syrupy. I've never followed the suggestion either that a glass of Black Bush should accompany a good pint of Guinness, but then I never like to mix my drinks... Black Bush is a phenomenal whiskey that disputes the idea that blends can never be as good as single malts.
For the true gentleman of leisure, might I suggest enjoying Black Bush, straight, after a night out on the town with a bag of very fresh fish and chips? It's not as crazy as you might think; the oppressive oiliness of a late night fish supper can be countered by the subtle sharpness of the Black Bush. It is a bizarre pairing made in heaven.
The first taste of Black Bush- 10 year malt Irish Whiskey was, strangely enough, in the Jamesons Distillery, which distills all types of Irish whiskey, apart from Bushmills, which, I believe has its own distillery elsewhere in Ireland. I was invited to take part in the whiskey tasting session at the end of the distillery tour- and being a self respecting trombonist, accepted. The difference between the 5 irish blends was staggering. Out of all of them, the Bushmills was the smoothest and went down really well. Jamesons had a definite edge to it when the two were compared, and the taste did not seem as refined. Bushmills is real sippin' whiskey, it's the smoothest one I've ever tasted, and in comparison you can really taste the smokey peatiness of the scotch, and the rough edge of the Bourbons. However, for the real Bushmills experience, I would have to recommend drinking it side by side with Guiness. Nothing better.
Black Bush Special Irish Whiskey is a rich, dark, 80-proof blend from the world's oldest licensed distillery, Old Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim, Ireland.