Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bushmills 1608 400th Anniversary Review!

In 1608,

"King James I grants Sir Thomas Phillips a royal licence to distil ‘uisce beatha’, the gaelic for 'water of life', or whiskey as we know it today, in 'the territory of the Rowte' in Co. Antrim. This is the first official recorded evidence of whiskey-making in the area that was to become Bushmills." -

   400 years later, in 2008, Bushmills produced a limited addition 400th Anniversary whiskey. Never to be released again, today this one is fairly scarce in a lot places. It's a blended whiskey, but only just, reputedly containing 95% malt and 5% grain spirit. To put that into perspective, some american blended whiskeys use 80% neutral grain spirits. In canada, it could be even more. 30% of the malt in the 400th anniversary whiskey is pretty interesting. It's crystal malt. What does that mean? Well, typically, crystal malt is used in beer making, not distilling. As far as I know this is the only whiskey to contain crystal malt. They add crystal malt to some beers to sweeten the flavor a bit, because some of the crystal malt caramelizes when heated in the kiln and thus does not ferment, entering the final product with some of it's sugars more or less intact. We had a bag of light crystal malt laying around from an old beer kit, and it is quite sweet. Like sweet corn flakes.

   What effect does this have on a pot still whiskey? They say it gives the whiskey and remarkable smoothness.

   Suffice to say, being a Bushmills fan, I was pretty excited when I found this stuff. When it was first released, the suggested retail price in the U.S. was $100.00. It's currently listed on for about $90. I found it on for a bit less... How much less?


   I almost bought two bottles at that price! The bottle comes in a very nice gift box/casket, which actually works pretty nice standing up in my liquor cabinet. It would certainly work well as a gift for the Irish whiskey lover in your life. On the inside of the box is a nice brief history of Bushmills. It looks like pretty high class stuff.

ABV: 46%

 This has been a tough one for me honestly. I get a big hit of sweet right of the bat, but not the fruity, young. lively, sweet I get from some other Irish blends, this is different. It's richer, robust, almost like a sherry cask sweetness, without the other pleasant undertones that usually accompany a sherry cask aged whisky. I also get underlying cereal grains, and with water a little bit of caramel, but much less than I remember from the regular Bushmills. I start to get a little bit of fruit, but in a darker, baked, unsweetened fruit bread kind of way.

 The initial taste is pretty light, but then I start to taste the crystal malt quite a bit. Pretty consistent with the nose. Not huge, but certainly flavorful. Smooth I guess, but not remarkable.

 The finish is really nice, if a little hot. Rich, malt singing loudly, cereal grains, and fades to a nice peach flavor that lingers. Nice finish length. My favorite part of this whiskey.

I was really excited to try this one, being a fan of the regular Bushmills, but I have to say I was initially a little underwhelmed. This bottle has settled a bit with time into a nice dram. We had fun opening the bottle and tasting a little bit each week to see how the bottle was doing. In the end, I'm glad I only payed 35 bucks. At the premium it demands in it's home territory (£49.00)), I'd have to say I'd be a bit disappointed. Still, this is quite the respectable whiskey from Bushmills. A lot more flavorful than many Irish blends. Many of the other reviews were highly favorable as well.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. Interesting use of the crystal malts. They were sweet, very much like corn flakes... Can't wait to try some!