Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Bushmills - 12 year old "Distillery Reserve"

Hello my whisky friends,

Back again, as promised, with another quick review.  

The whisky, or should I say whiskey, that's made it to the blog for this update is the Bushmills 12 year old "Distillery Reserve", which I'm sure is a dram that few of you have had the chance to sample.  

Getting your hands, or lips, on this version of Bushmills is a privilege only available to those who make a visit to the world famous distillery on the beautiful north Antrim coast here on the island of Ireland.  A visit that I can wholeheartedly recommend.  

Bushmills Distillery, Co. Antrim
My trip to the distillery took place a couple of years ago and I found it to be a truly enjoyable experience.  Unfortunately I managed to mistime my visit and arrived when the stills were not in operation, due to annual cleaning, but this was happily overlooked with a fine tasting session that me and my girlfriend managed to be treated to.

For those of you who do not know, Bushmills distillery is usually known the world over as "The Oldest Distillery in the World".  Well this isn't exactly true.  It is true that a licence to distill was granted to the area back in 1608, and I've no doubt that whiskey was produced in this area from that time, but the actual distillery itself was not built until 1784.  As a side note Kilbeggan distillery, in Co. Westmeath, Ireland, can claim to be the oldest actual distillery in the world as it was founded in 1757.

Bushmills traditionally produce triple distilled malt and their core range includes Original Bushmills blend, Black Bush blend, Bushmills 10 year, Bushmills 16 year and Bushmills 21 year.  Incidentally the grain whiskey that makes up the Bushmills blends actually comes from Midleton distillery, the home of Jameson Irish whiskey.

As I mentioned this 12 year old is only available at their distillery and is a triple distilled, single malt that has been matured mainly in ex Spanish oloroso sherry casks before being bottled at 40% ABV.

Since my visit to Bushmills I have slowly but surely worked my way through the bottle and to be perfectly honest it has taken me a while to get to grips with it.  I have always enjoyed the Bushmills 16 year old, and the Bushmills 21 year old is heavenly, but this 12 year old had me puzzled for quite some time.

Maybe it was down to the fact that the 16 and 21 year old's each have gorgeous finishes, port and madeira respectively, or maybe it was something else.  While searching for answers I came up with the possibility that it could be simply down to an honest lack of experience of triple distilled single malts.  This was backed up with memories of the very few Auchentoshan's I've sampled where, again, I just didn't really get them.  Now, before the 'toshan fans start a full blown hate campaign against me, I'll hold my hands up and fully admit my experience of Auchentoshan is very, very limited so there's no way I'm writing it off, I just need to sit down and really get to know their spirit better.

Whatever it was though that held me back, I think I'm slowly working my way around it and as a result I'm now, finally, beginning to understand the Bushmills 12 year old.

Onto the whiskey itself:

Nose - Delicate…..extremely delicate. Honey, toffee apple, light floral notes, faint ripe banana, some fizzy orange, almost sherbet like, lemon candies, light grain, sweet malt and some dried fruit with gentle spice.  With water the citrus notes become even lighter to the point of nearly disappearing.

Palate - Sweet arrival backed up with some clove spice. The spirit is light in the mouth and shows off some more fruit with orange returning. There's some light oakiness and again the faintest hint of dried fruit.  With water the spices ease to highlight the light floral / fruity notes.

Finish - Short, sweet and slightly warming with a late arrival of red apple.

Overall, and I have to be honest, whilst I feel I'm understanding this whiskey better, than when I first tried it, I still feel Bushmills could do more.  In my opinion I feel this whiskey is crying out to be bottled at 46% ABV rather than the current 40% ABV.  A craft finish to this malt would really give it the oomph it needs to become a great purchase for visitors making the journey to the distillery.  At the moment I get the sense that Bushmills / Diageo are pumping it out as a standard presentation knowing everyone will buy it anyway and I suppose they're right, but surely it wouldn't hurt to put a little extra into the production and give all their fans the sense of nabbing a true reward for coming along and saying hello.

Aw well, at least I still have the 16 year old to fall back on.

And on that note I'll head off again.  I'll be back again soon though when I shall be getting round to a review I mentioned was on it's way a while back - the return of the "Dunville's Irish Whiskey" brand, and as promised I've some extra info from Echlinville Distillery who are behind the return of this long lost name.

Until next time,




  1. I am no expert on Irish whiskey but picked up a bottle of this Bushmills single malt at the distillery earlier this year. It is by far the best Irish whiskey I have tasted, with the possible exception of Midleton. We were told by a shopkeeper that the Chinese have developed a taste for Midleton and thus the reason for its unusually high cost. The Bushmills 12 y/o single malt was around $40 or $50 at the distillery. Wish we had bought a few more bottles. Helluva buy. Helluva whiskey.

  2. A friend brought back a bottle of the 12 year. Amazing! Better than many 18 and 21 year old scotches I've tasted. I'm going to Scotland next year to play golf for three weeks. I wish I could drop down to the Bushmill Distillery for a visit.