Saturday 11 April 2015

Bushmills Tasting at PJ's Irish Whiskey Bar with Simon McGoram (Tasted #168-172)

Having tasted the Jameson series just before St Pat's day a few weeks back at the CCWC, I was looking forward to embarking on another Irish whiskey journey through the Bushmills whiskey dinner at PJ's Irish Whiskey Bar in Sydney. Given the rising (and continuing) success of Scottish single malt whiskies globally, it will be interesting to see if the Irish distillers follow the path and push through innovative expressions, such as what we have seen recently from Teeling Whiskey Company.

PJ's Irish Whiskey Bar is a whisky bar housed in the upper George Street Irish branded venue, Jacksons on George (as owned by the Gallagher Hotels). The bar itself features your classic Irish whiskies - from Jameson, Tullamore D.E.W, New Middleton, Powers to a range of Bushmills (as featured on the menu for the night). The bar also showcases other whisky expressions from Scotland, America, Japan and Australia.

The Bushmills whiskey dinner was hosted by avid whisky enthusiast Simon McGoram, former Porteño Bar Manager and Co-Owner of the Neighbourhood Bar / Restaurant in Bondi. Upon arriving, we caught up with Simon and checked out the Bushmills line-up for the night:
  • Bushmills Original
  • Bushmills Black Bush
  • Bushmills 10yo
  • Bushmills 16yo
  • Bushmills 21yo
The Old Bushmills distillery is renowned as the oldest distillery in Ireland, and in the world -- out-aging even the oldest distilleries in Scotland - Glenturret and Bowmore. Founded in 1608 in County Antrim, Ireland, the Old Bushmills distillery has had its fair share of success and chaos. The distillery survived the introduction of the malt tax in the 1800s, destruction of by fire, the tumultuous prohibition era, and world wars. The distillery had recently been featured on Irish banknotes to mark its 400 years anniversary.

The inherent flavour profile of the Bushmills expressions is said to be rather sweet and honey-laden. Like most of its Irish whiskey brethren, Bushmill is triple-distilled in pot stills from unpeated barley. A number of expressions, including the original Bushmills have grain whiskey blended together with the malt whiskey.


The Bushmills whiskey dinner paired the Bushmills range with a set of delectable whiskey inspired dishes from light smoked salmon / creme fraiche to match the light Bushmills Original to a reuben, as complemented by the Black Bush and a simple bread and butter pudding finished with a whiskey custard -- taking the flavour profile from the 16yo. The sweet and decadent 21yo was nicely paired with a traditional oatmeal cookie, topped with an Irish Cashel Blue cheese, honey and muscatel raisins. The five course menu was designed by Executive Chef Ronny Ghantous.

So then, onto the series of Bushmills whiskies...

Bushmills Original Irish Whiskey (40% ABV, NAS, Antrim, Ireland, $40AUD)
A standard, light blended Irish whiskey expression. Much like a number of the light Jameson expressions tasted at CCWC a couple of weeks back.

Colour: Pale amber

Nose: The nose begins with some honey with a citrus peel edge and then some vanilla
Palate: A light, sweet vanilla begins to build on the palate which is then followed by a hint of citrus and toffee and a touch of honey
Finish: Not as long running, rather it was a short finish

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 87/100. It's light, sweet, easy on the palate though fairly un-interesting.

Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey (40% ABV, NAS, Antrim, Ireland, $48AUD)
A richer NAS blended whiskey with higher malt than grain in the blend and aged in a higher percentage of American oak Oloroso sherry casks.

Colour: Dark caramel

Nose: The Black Bush smells of sherry coupled with crumbs of banana bread, a hint of vanilla of some spices
Palate: The palate is light, though smooth and creamy and exhibits that sherry profile with a hint of vanilla, honey and cinnamon
Finish: Medium finish with heat from the dried spices and lingers with some sherry

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. It's light, smooth, creamy and carries a nice sherry profile -- might be a good candidate for a breakfast Irish whiskey

Bushmills 10 Year Old Irish Whiskey (40% ABV, 10yo, Antrim, Ireland, $60AUD)
A light and creamy single malt Irish whiskey matured in two woods, bourbon and sherry casks

Colour: Light gold

Nose: The nose smells of pears, vanilla and is that chocolate eclair in there
Palate: Similar to the Black Bush, the palate is light, creamy, vanilla sweet and honey laden. There palate is also slightly nutty towards the end
Finish: A smooth and creamy medium finish and hint of black pepper that lingers on

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. It's a nice light, creamy and sweet expression; quite a simple expression

Bushmills 16 Year Old Irish Whiskey (40% ABV, 16yo, Antrim, Ireland, $110AUD)
A rich and creamy single malt expression aged in olorosso sherry and bourbon casks and finished in port wine casks.

Colour: Rusted nail

Nose: The nose hints of chocolate and honey, quite sweet
Palate: Creamy and leathery. There is that hint of sherry, citrus with sweetness from chocolate and custard. The palate then develops into a more nutty toffee profile.
Finish: Quite a long finish that opens up for more

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. The three wood aging process adds to the complexity of the expression though the expression is rich

Bushmills 21 Year Old Irish Whiskey (40% ABV, 21yo, Antrim, Ireland, $230AUD)
Only 900 cases of this expression are produced annually. An intense, smooth and creamy single malt expression that is aged for 19 years in ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso sherry casks and finished for two years in madeira casks.

Colour: Dark caramel

Nose: Vanilla, chocolate with a hint of citrus and banana
Palate: At first tasting, you can taste the creaminess of the expression with some orange rind, raisins and salted caramel. The palate then proceeds to those malty flavours; toffee, cinnamon, cloves, raisins and a hint of sherry. There is also a touch of licorice towards the end.
Finish: The finish is sweet and dry and lingers on for a bit though not too long.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. A rich, old Irish whiskey that you can have by the fireplace or to complement a rich after-dinner dessert.

When compared to the Jameson expressions, the Bushmills expressions exhibit a more interesting taste profile, with a richer, sweeter note. As the oldest Irish distillery, Bushmills are well-placed to showcase what great expressions Irish distilleries can offer.

- Hendy would like to thank Red Agency for the invitation to what was an enjoyable and insightful night at the PJ's Irish Whiskey Bar, Jackson's on George.

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