Life

Ranking The Core Bottles Of Bushmills Irish Whiskey

Bushmills is Ireland’s oldest whiskey. The area of County Antrim (in Northern Ireland) has a distilling history that goes back to the 1200s. Bushmills pins its foundation to a royal license for distilling, issued in the year 1608. And the current distilling concern dates back to 1784. Regardless of what you consider the distillery’s official start date, it’s clear they’ve been making whiskey for eons.

That history is why we decided to rank their core U.S. line. Well, that and it’s St. Patrick’s Day.

Expression-wise, Bushmills is an interesting brand. They have some very entry-level bottles — classic triple-distilled Irish blends — but they also feature single malts, with three age-statement bottles. While there is a throughline that feels like “Bushmills,” there’s also a marked difference between the blended stuff and the single malts. By trying them all you have the chance to expand your palate and better understand the potential for nuance in Irish whiskeys (even those found within a single brand).

The six bottles below are ranked solely on taste. While the 16 and 21-year-old single malts are very pricy, but that price tag didn’t come into play below. Click the prices to order the expressions that look best to you! Sláinte!

Related: Ranking The Core Bottles Of Awards Circuit Darling Woodinville Whiskey

6. Bushmills Red Bush

Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $26

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:

Well… something has to be last. This really feels like a cocktail mixer more than anything else. It’s fine on the rocks but we’d prefer it mixed into an old fashioned.

5. Bushmills The Original

Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $26

The Whiskey:

This is Bushmill’s classic and original recipe (so to speak). The 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:

This narrowly beats our Red Bush simply by feeling more like good old Irish whiskey and not Irish whiskey trying to draw in bourbon drinkers. That aside, this is a workhorse pour. Shoot it, mix it, pour it on the rocks — dealer’s choice.

3 (tie). Bushmills Single Malt Aged 10 Years

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 that soft Northern Irish spring water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

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

Bottom Line:

This is a great dram if you’re looking for a killer on the rocks sipper or cocktail base. A nice gateway to the wider world of Irish single malts.

3 (tie). Bushmills Black Bush

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 with a balance set towards the sherry profile rather than the bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

That sherry jamminess and plumminess come through with a hint of vanilla, apricot, and nuts. The palate carries on along that path and adds in a serious Christmas spice matrix with amped-up nuttiness and a touch more vanilla. The end is fairly quick, sherry-fueled with spice and sweetness, and slightly malty.

Bottom Line:

This is a great workhorse whiskey to have on your shelf. It’s an all-around winner for an Irish blend that works really well in a simple whiskey cocktail, a highball, or on the rocks.

2. Bushmills Single Malt Aged 21 Years

Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $240

The Whiskey:

This is a special bottle of whiskey. The juice is made with Irish malts and then aged for 19 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 and prunes. The taste kicks in with a rich and buttery dark toffee covered in roasted almonds, with a hint of dried fruit and equally dried choco-malts. 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.

Bottom Line:

Yes, this is good. Spendy for sure, but this is a celebration bottle you break out when your sibling graduates from college or you land that dream job. It’s not an every-day sipper and feels like something very special.

Over a single rock, this pick really shines. New depths open up and you start to get this dark and spicy brandy-soaked holiday cake vibe. It’s delicious.

1. Bushmills Single Malt Aged 16 Years

Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $126

The Whiskey:

This whiskey starts off as the other two single malts on this list, by aging 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.

Tasting Notes:

This starts out with plenty of spicy red berry jam next to a whiff of marzipan and bourbon vanilla. That almond creates a smooth foundation with more of that spicy red jam coming through alongside a honeyed sweetness and velvet mouthfeel. The end of this one is long-ish as the spice, jammy fruit, and almond paste slowly fade out, leaving you warmed.

Bottom Line:

Price aside, this does feel like an everyday sipper. The taste hits on the best marks from the full Bushmills line: Touch of bourbon vanilla, plenty of jammy and spicy notes, and a real sense of sweet almonds.

Try this one neat, then add a rock and explore the depths of the malts — as a bitter espresso and creamy chocolate malt edge arrives, alongside juicier red fruits. This one also makes one hell of a Manhattan.


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

×