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Bushmills Black Bush

Review: Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey  84.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 17, 2013

The practice of making whisky at the Old Bushmills Distillery can be traced back to 1608 when King James I granted Sir Thomas Phillips (landowner and Governor of County of Antrim, Ireland) a royal license to distill ‘uisce beatha’, the gaelic for ‘water of life’. Although this grant serves as the first documented evidence of whisky being distilled at the site which would become Old Bushmills, it was not as yet called Bushmills. By 1743 however, a distillery by this name was (according to Victorian whiskey journalist Alfred Barnard) was “in the hands of smugglers”‘.  (However, it was not until 1784 that Hugh Anderson officially registered the Old Bushmills Distillery with the Pot Still as its trade mark.) Today, the Bushmills brand is owned by the Diageo conglomerate with all of the whiskey produced under the Bushmills name produced at the Old Bushmills Distillery in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

The Bushmills Black Bush is composed of whiskey aged in Oloroso Sherry and American oak (bourbon) cask. All of this whiskey is aged for up to 7  years with 80 per cent of the blend being Premium Malt Whisky.

(Note: Sample for this review provided by the Diageo Marketing  team in Alberta.)

SAM_0657 Black BushIn the Bottle 4/5

The Black Bush arrives in the medium tall square bottle shown to the left. This is the standard bottle for the Bushmills brand and other than the colour of the label it doesn’t change throughout their line-up of whiskeys. Featured on every one of those labels in that line-up is the year 1608 printed boldly at the top. Bushmill’s celebrates the year whiskey was first distilled at the Bushmills site rather than the year the company was officially established.

I like the bottle presentation. It is clean and professional and serves its purpose well.

In the Glass 8.5/10

When I pour the whiskey into my glencairn glass, the whiskey has a rich mahogany colour consistent with a whiskey which has seen the inside of a sherry cask. The initial breezes above the glass are warm and inviting. I sense some soft caramel toffee rising into the air with some sweet malty aromas, hints of dry fruit (raisins and apricots), a nice lightly spicy oak presence, and some light impressions of cocoa.

As the glass breathes both the dry fruit and the oak gain momentum. The oak begins to reminds me of woody spruce boughs and willow thickets, and the the dry fruit mixes nicely with the cocoa and caramel reminding me of Christmas fruitcake. All in all this is very nice.

In the Mouth 51/60

The entry is somewhat dry in the mouth but the whiskey carries a nice complex flavour forward. I taste chocolate caramel and that same Christmas fruitcake I noticed on the nose. Undercurrents of mixed nuts (think pecans and walnuts) and a lovely bittersweet cocoa seem to mix beautifully with raisins and dates in creating that fruitcake impression. There is a nice dollop of woodspice as well, with hints of orange peel, cloves and pepper. Finally, a touch of sweet malt seems to bring everything together nicely. Although I quite like what I taste, a few more years of aging would perhaps bring the Black Bush up another level yet.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The exit carries a lot of chocolate and wood spice making the finish bittersweet and dry at the same time. Echoes of caramel and sweet malt arrive just at the end lingering for just a little while before they fade. There is really nothing to complain about in a whiskey which seems to be well constructed and balanced.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I am impressed that a relatively young (aged up to 7 years) blended whiskey (80 % malt and 20 % grain) tastes so nice. The Black Bush seems to hit all the right buttons for me. A little more aging and we might have a whisky I would score in the 90’s. My score of 85/100 reflects a whiskey I have no trouble sipping, but one which will also work very well in the cocktail format.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


SAM_0678 Gold on the Rocks

Suggested Recipes

Fool’s Gold on the Rocks

3/4 oz Bushmills Black Bush
1/2 oz Orange Curacao
1/4 oz Cinnamon Whiskey

1 large Ice-Cube

Add the Ice cube to a well chilled small rocks glass (the rock)
Pour each spirit over the rock in turn and stir

(Note: This recipe lengthens beautifully with Ginger-ale)


SAM_0672 Irish CoffeeIrish Coffee

2 oz hot black coffee
1/12 oz Bushmills Black Bush
1 tsp sugar
Whipped Cream

Bittersweet Chocolate

Add the Hot coffee to a small mug
Add The Black Bush and the sugar
Top with Whipped Cream
Garnish with shaved bittersweet chocolate
Enjoy Responsibly!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


7 Responses to “Bushmills Black Bush”

  1. I’ve yet to try any of the Bushmill’s line, but I’m intending to pick up the Bushmill’s “Original” (regular) to try it out this weekend. As I am a fan of the Canadian Club Sherry Cask whisky, if the “regular” proves its worth, the Black Bush will definitely be a try in my whisk(e)y exploration. I have grown a great appreciation for that particular spirit, and am always looking to add a new entry to my “cabinet” of whiskies that I’ve sampled/tried……Keep up the GREAT work!!

  2. rawkabillyrebel said

    I would rate this one higher, maybe an 88-89. It had a ton of flavor and is quite complex especially compared with Jamieson.

  3. russ said

    wow,haven’t visited a bottle of black bush for years..shades of days lost with another irish blend,middleton, and a welsh blend called prince of wales…always found the bush way too sweet,syrupy somewhere between Dr.colis brown’s cough medicine and an after dinner taste cleanser….either my tastes or a different blend all this years later…thanx for the memories chip..c u in miami? russ

    • Thanks Russ

      Instead of Miami, I will be heading to Jamaica if the Cards fall right. I was invited to be part of a group of writers to tour the Appleton Estate. Stay tuned for my upcoming stories….

  4. Mike said

    A few more years of aging would bring it to another level, but also to another price point. I think when you compare it to similarly priced Irish whiskies such as Kilbeggan and Inishowen, Black Bush is a good value. Anyway, glad you enjoy this whiskey. Ever tried Bushmills 10 year old malt?

    • I agree that for the price this is good value. I was just pointing out that the Black Bush does not have the elegance or full flavour of an older whisky which is why the score wasn’t higher. I did score this one 6 points higher than the Kilbeggan (reviewed earlier today) so we seem to agree on that as well.

      I haven’t tried the 10 year Bushmills; but I did review the Bushmills 16 year old quite a while back. The 16 is a true Single Malt and therefore not directly comparable to the Black Bush. (Having said that, I suspect that the Black Bush aged for 16 years would actually appeal to me more that the 16 year old single malt.)

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