Life

Every Bottle Of The Current Bushmills Irish Whiskey Line, Ranked

Bushmills is an icon of the whiskey world. The tipple from Northern Ireland has been around for hundreds of years and has a devoted fan base. But as with all whiskey brands, there’s more than just one bottle of Bushmills out there. The line has a pretty deep bench of core expressions, eight to be exact, that each offers a little something different.

When it comes to what Bushmills is, it’s Irish to its core. That means we’re looking at triple distilled whiskey. Generally, Bushmills (like most Irish whiskey) is a blend of malted barley and grain (a mix of corn, wheat, and barley) whiskeys. Those whiskeys are generally aged in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks before blending or final maturation processes. Bushmills also has a core line of single malt whiskeys that go through the same process as the blends but with very different results, which I’ll get into.

Below, I’m going to break down each of the core Bushmills bottles by taste and then rank them. But a word of warning first: Ranking a whole line like this isn’t about saying “don’t buy this, buy that.” This is more about ranking these whiskeys by how to use them. The bottom rung bottles are simple whiskeys that are made to be mixed in highballs with fizzy mineral water, Coke, or ginger ale. That doesn’t mean they’re bad, it just means they’re not going to blow any minds. That said, the top three or so whiskeys on this list are pretty damn fine sippers. In between, you’ll find whiskeys that industry folks call “workhorse” whiskeys. Those are the ones that work in a highball, can stand out in a cocktail, and also manage as a sipper if need be.

Savvy? Cool. Let’s dive in!

8. Bushmills Red Bush

Bushmills Red Bush
Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $22

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is primarily made for the U.S. market. The juice is a classic triple-distilled malt and grain whiskey blend that’s aged in first-fill bourbon casks (that means this whiskey was the first thing to go in the barrel after bourbon).

Tasting Notes:

That bourbon vanilla really shines through on the nose with a touch of wood and a slight nuttiness. The taste holds onto the vanilla as it gets slightly creamy, with thin hints of honey, caramel, and a touch of dark spice mingling with warm malts. The end is short and sweet and leaves you with a twinge of malty alcohol burn.

Bottom Line:

Mix this with Coke and ginger ale. You can maybe take it as a shot with a beer back, but it’s a bit harsh for that.

7. Bushmills The Original

Bushmills Original
Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $24

The Whiskey:

This is Bushmill’s classic and “original” recipe. The triple-distilled grain and malt juices are rested in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks before they’re married, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a balance of honey and nuts on the nose with a hint of dark berries. The palate delivers on that — in true Irish whiskey fashion — and adds in a slight caramel and vanilla vibe in the background. The malts and grains carry the taste to a short end, with a slight oatiness next to the honey, fruit, and nuts.

Bottom Line:

Okay, this is the Bushmills I’d order if I was ordering a shot and a beer. It’s also pretty damn good with some ginger ale and a twist of lime.

6. Bushmills Single Malt Aged 10 Years

Bushmills 10
Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $49

The Whiskey:

The first expression in Bushmill’s single malt range is a winner. The juice is made from Irish barley and matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The best barrels are married, proofed with soft Northern Irish spring water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a very clear sense of apples (a lot of them), vanilla, pie crust, and chocolate malts on the nose. The palate really delivers on those flavors with spicy stewed apple pie with a buttery yet almost savory crust, plenty of fresh honey, and an underbelly of those almost creamy choco-malts. The finish is medium length, full of apples, dry wicker, and plenty of spicy malts.

Bottom Line:

I’d like to say this is a sipper, but that’d be a tad too generous. This really shines best as a highball base with some nice fizzy water and a lime or lemon wedge or in a simple cocktail. Beyond that, it’s a bit of an apple bomb on the nose and palate and not a whole lot else to grab your attention.

5. Bushmills Black Bush

Bushmills Black
Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $33

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is a more refined version of the white label. The juice is a blend of grain and malt whiskeys aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The final blend, however, leans more into the single malt juice than the grain whiskey with a balance set towards the sherry profile rather than the bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

A sherry jamminess and plumminess come through with a hint of vanilla, apricot, winter spices, and nuts on the nose. The palate carries on along that path and adds in a serious Christmas spice matrix with amped-up nuttiness, sultanas, and a touch more vanilla. The end is fairly quick and sherry-fueled with spice and dried fruits leading the way to a slightly malty finish.

Bottom Line:

This feels like it could either be a simple shooter or a decent on the rocks sipper depending on your mood. It’s not reinventing anything or life-changing whiskey but it isn’t meant to be either. This is just good, simple, and tasty whiskey.

4. Bushmills Single Malt Aged 12 Years

Bushmills 12
Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $73

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is the first step up in the single malt line from the 10. The juice is triple-distilled malt whisky that spends nine years resting in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks before it’s transferred into Marsala wine casks for final maturation. That whiskey is then batched, proofed, and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of apple blossoms on the nose that’s supported by walnut and almond shells with a hint of spicy malts by way of an apple fritter. The palate leans dry as the apple turns into apple chips with a dry cider vibe next to dark chocolate malts, more of those nutshells, and a hint of leathery apple tobacco leaf. The finish is slightly muted by the proofing water but still shines with applewood, dark chocolate powder, and a mild nuttiness.

Bottom Line:

This is a good bridge between mixing and sipping Bushmills bottles. I tend to use this for mixing cocktails. It makes a hell of an old fashioned. That said, this works as an end-of-the-day on the rocks sipper too.

3. Bushmills Single Malt Aged 21 Years

Bushmills 21
Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $230

The Whiskey:

The juice on this one is made with Irish malts and then aged for 19 long years in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Those barrels are batched and that whiskey then spends an additional two years maturing in a Portuguese Madeira cask.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a deep, dark chocolate malt vibe on the nose with flourishes of marzipan, prunes, mulled wine spices, old saddle leather, and a hint of shortbread. The taste kicks in with a rich and buttery dark toffee covered in roasted almonds with a hint of dried fruit and dried choco-malts with a light twinge of dried tobacco leaf. The end is fairly long and holds onto those dried fruits and bitter chocolate malts while leaving you with flavors of sweet and silky toffee and a very distant echo of applewood tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This is very clearly a stellar sipper. Still, it’s not quite the sweet spot of the single malt lineup. It’s nuanced but could use a little more oomph.

2. Bushmills Single Malt Aged 16 Years

Bushmills 16
Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $125

The Whiskey:

This single malt whiskey starts off by getting triple distilled. It’s then aged for 15 years in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The batched juice is then transferred to port pipes for a final nine-month rest before proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This starts out with a spicy red berry jam next to a whiff of marzipan laced with bourbon vanilla, a hint of old leather, apple cores, and a light Christmas cake spice on the nose. That almond creates a smooth foundation with more of that spicy red jam alongside an apple/honeyed sweetness and velvet mouthfeel while those wintry spices meld with the malts to create a berry-cinnamon tobacco profile. The end of this one is long-ish as the spice, jammy fruit, and almond paste slowly fade out, leaving you warmed with a sense of malts and dark fruit.

Bottom Line:

This really is the sweet spot of the whole lineup. It’s accessible and deeply hewn. Add a single rock to this and you’ll be set. That said, we haven’t quite reached the mountaintop yet.

1. Bushmills Single Malt Aged 28 Years Cognac Cask

Bushmills 28
Casa Cuervo

ABV: 46.7%

Average Price: $490

The Whiskey:

This whiskey — created by Master Blender Helen Mulholland — was the first release in Bushmills’ new “Rare Cask” limited edition line. The whiskey is classic Bushmills single malt, which is triple distilled, that’s aged for eleven years in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry. Then the whiskey is transferred into Cognac casks for a final maturation of 17 more years. That whiskey is lightly proofed down and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted with a nose full of apple tobacco with plenty of woody cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice next to a hint of marzipan laced with orange oils and covered in dark chocolate next to a big minced meat pie. The sip takes you home for the holidays with a silky mouthfeel next to more marzipan, more spicy minced meat, a hint of sticky toffee pudding with black-tea-soaked dates, salted toffee syrup, and rich vanilla ice cream on top. The sweetness of that fruity mid-palate leads towards a woody end that mingles woody dark spices with old cedar cigar humidors and a porch full of damp wicker with a hint of black mold in between the reeds.

Bottom Line:

This is a “holy shit, that’s good” pour of whiskey. I’d recommend adding a single rock or a few drops of water to let it open up, but it’s very fine neat as well. Either way, this is a superior whiskey that’s worth the money and time to track down.

×