Friday, March 2, 2012

Bushmills Black Bush - Blind Tasting

This selection is the second in the Irish tasting line-up. As I mentioned in the Greenore posting, most of my whiskey buddies primarily drink bourbon. The difference between bourbon and Irish can be quite stark with Irish being a softer and gentler whisky. This profile type isn't always well received among bourbon drinkers.

My love of bourbon and subsequent dabbling in other world whiskies comes from the pleasure of trying new things. Delicate or bold, for the most part, it's fun trying new expressions. For others though, bourbons big bold flavor profile is the go to, not some sissy, triple distilled Irish whisky.

The Greenore didn't fair so well only garnering a mediocre rating but the Bushmills did fare somewhat better. The description from the Bushmills website states "Bushmills' premier blend, with a significantly greater proportion of malt to grain whiskey than the white label. Selected Spanish Oloroso sherry-seasoned oak casks mature the malt, before it is blended with delicate sweet single grain whiskey."

The Bushmills is 80pf, is a smooth drinker and has decent flavor but in the end is still a low proof blend. From a flavor profile it's a little more exciting than the Greenore with touches of bittersweet chocolate, sherry and plum. At a higher proof, I'm sure this would drink with a little more charisma. Black Bush is an all around decent whisky and I would have no problem ordering from a bar. If at home, I would reach for other selections.

As I mentioned, the tasting panel scored this one slightly better than sample #1 with an overall average score of 82:

95-100 Classic Whiskey 0
90-94 Excellent Whiskey 0
85-89 Very Good, Above Average Whiskey 3
80-84 Average Whiskey 8
75-79 Fair Whiskey 0
74 and Under - Pass on This Whiskey 1

"Nose reveals hints of smoke, green apple, tangerine and sweet notes. Lots of fruit on the nose."

"Honey flavored, a hint of butterscotch.very uncomplicated but pleasant."

"Not very complex but enjoyable all the same."

"It's a good whiskey, but I feel that if it were higher proof it would be potentially great."

As you can see from the scores and comments, it's a pleasant whisky, enjoyable but not overly complex, and bottled at a higher proof would be a bonus. This bottle comes in 750ml size and runs low to mid $30's and is widely available. For me, this one was good but in the end, not one I would probably pick up as there are other expressions I like better, even if they do cost more.


  1. I also reviewed Black Bush on my blog this very same evening. Even more amazingly, I came to the very same conclusion. Apparently great palates taste alike. Your blog post had a more complex mid-palate (with voting results). Mine had a better photograph. I give the nod to yours on balance....

  2. Joshua - That's too funny. There really wasn't a bell curve on this one as it was right down the middle for the most part. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. Ever since I found your blog (on Ryan's Value Wiskey Reviews blogroll) a few weeks ago I've been checking it out. I seriously admire and envy your barrel acquisition arrangements and insane collection of dusties. I think my wife would label you a "bad influence". I find your reviews extremely useful. The fact you have a group and do blind tastings gives a rare perspective for liquor blogs. Keep up the great work!

  4. Joshua - I have no problem taking the hit for you....go ahead and blame me for any bottles you acquire. I think the blind tastings give the purest review for a whiskey as there is no outside influence for the taster; they only know what kind of whiskey, nothing about the label, proof, mashbill, age, etc. When doing it with a larger group of participants, it provides true data on the where the middle is and in this case, Bushmills is just an average Irish even though the distillery claims it's the entry for their premium labels. As we know, more expensive does not mean better. I recently did a side by side of Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve against the new Redbreast Cast 12 year. The Jameson is more than three times the price but I would take the Redbreast all day long, it was fantastic.

  5. Thanks, Greg. I believe you're right about blind tasting. In order to do it myself I'd need assistance, however (unless there's a clever way I'm not considering).

    Black Bush is clearly just average - and there are better options available for the same or slightly more (or, in some cases, slightly less) money. I conclude my review as follows:

    "Bottom line - an ok option if you want a nice middle of the road Irish minty flavor option but there are far better Irish whiskeys out there for not much more money such as Tyrconnel, Redbreast 12, The Knot 100, Kellan, or even Jameson 12 (not the undated expression). Even Tullamore Dew 10 (not the undated expression) is a step up in my opinion. Meanwhile, I consider Bushmills 16, Bushmills 1608, and Bushmills 21 among the finest Irish whiskeys (just a notch below Midleton's Very Rare) - so it's not as if the distillery doesn't know what they are doing."

    So - I'm completely in accord with your assessment.

    Jameson Rarest Vintage is a decent dram - and it's interesting you find Redbreast 12 smokes it. I like Redbreast 12 very very much - but it's almost a different animal. It's the smooth and creamy with more red red fruit flavors and vanilla floral qualities (from more time in the oak). For me the top Irish is Midleton Very Rare - at less than half the cost of Jameson Rarest (but more than most other Irish whiskeys). The Jameson 12 and 18 are fine, too, in my book - but at the cost of the Jameson 18 ($91 around here) I'd rather have the Bushmills 16 ($65) and a bottle of bourbon.

  6. My comment about Redbreast 12 was purely from a cost perspective. The Rarest Vintage runs upwards of $250 yet the new Redbreast Cask is running around $60-$70 in most markets. You're correct they are very different whisky's but from a value proposition, I'd take the RB Cask any day. I haven't tried the Knot although I've seen it on the shelves, I just don't know enough about it to pull the trigger on that one.

  7. The knot is stongly flavored and very different - thus polarizing. It has a lot of butterscotch and old rope in the nose and a medicinal very herbal flavor profile with a hint of smoke. I like it a lot and consider it a sleeper - but it's certainly not everyone's cup of tea. It's cheap too - usually around $30

  8. Greg and Joshua... how would you stack the Black Bush up against the Bushmills 16?

    1. I concur with Greg, Bushmills 16 is way, way better. I'm on the record calling the 16 among the best (behind Midleton Very Rare - at twice the price).

  9. Clifton - I'd take Bushmills 16 over Black Bush any day. There's many people that have "daily pours" e.g. those that they reach for on a regular basis and would favor something like Black Bush based on cost and drinkability. As I've mentioned in other posts, I've very eclectic in my drinking and don't follow any type of pattern. I reach for whatever sparks my interest at the moment. I personally would not keep Black Bush on my bar but would have a place for the 16 year.