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Bushmills Black Bush and Red Bush

St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate with an Irish Whiskey on the day when everyone is, at least a little bit, Irish at heart. In the past, we’ve tasted regular Bushmills and Jameson. While many find the typical Irish whiskey to be grassy from the malted and unmalted barley grains, we livened things up a bit by reaching for Bushmills Black Bush and Bushmills Red Bush.


Black Bush


Like many Irish Whiskeys, Bushmills Black Bush is a blended whiskey. While the original Bushmills, from one of Ireland’s oldest distillery, is a blend of whiskeys from multiple grains, Black Bush is closer to a single malt whiskey with nearly 80% malted barley. In addition, it has been aged in used bourbon barrels and oloroso sherry casks. The result if a light spirit that is delightfully smooth.


The finished whiskey is bottled at 80-proof, and while there isn’t an age statement, the website indicates it is aged around 8 years.


Eye: Honey (slightly darker than Red Bush).


Nose: Malt with some vanilla and plum compote.


Palate: The bourbon and sherry casks bring out a malt-forward mix of caramel and vanilla with more dark fruits.


Finish: Medium in length and sweet-tasting with vanilla and honey-drizzled fruit.


Overall: This was quite good. While some Irish whiskeys can be “too light” or grassy, this drank way more flavorful than its 80-proof would have indicated. It was sweet, without being overly sweet, and the deeper vanilla and fruit notes were a lovely compliment.


Red Bush


Continuing our tasting of Irish Whiskeys, we next poured Red Bush. In a similar vein, this, too, is a hefty 80% malted barley. The website indicates it is aged for at least 4 years in first-fill bourbon barrels and is bottled at 80-proof.


Eye: Light honey (slightly lighter than Black Bush).


Nose: Apples, pears, and honey, along with orchard fruits and plum compote.


Palate: Apples, dark chocolate, dried fruits, and baking spices.


Finish: Medium with apple slices dipped in chocolate Nutella, with spice and oak.


Overall: Thumbs up to this, as well. This was a good improvement over regular Bushmills. Aging in bourbon barrels is also a definite improvement.


If you asked me which was better, I’d give a nod to Black Bush. The mixture of bourbon and sherry casks, along with extra aging, gave Black Bush the win.


Bushmills white label and Red Bush each run about $20 at a regional liquor store, with the longer-aged Black Bush fetching $28. Either of these are a solid up-sell (and completely worth it!) from Bushmills white label. In a head-to-head competition, though, Black Bush had added depth and complexity that delighted us in this head-to-head tasting.


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