By Richard Thomas
As most whiskey fans already know, single malts aren’t limited just to Scotland. When it comes to the choice of grains that go into whiskey making, the core of any tradition always boils down to local agriculture. Ireland and Lowland Scotland aren’t so far apart in terms of climate, and therefore the respective farmers of those regions make similar choices in terms of what cereals to plant.
Hibernia and Caledonia wouldn’t need to be neighbors for both regions to grow a lot of barley, and having a lot of barley on hand means making malt whiskey. The Scots might be more famous for single malts and vatted malts, but they certainly do not have a corner on this market.
Bushmills, the Northern Irish or “Protestant” distillery, actually specializes in making single malt whiskey. The subject of this review, their green-labeled 10 Year Old, is actually the entry-level whiskey in their single malt line. The upper tier of Bushmills products are dominated with single malts, with 12, 16 and 21 Year Olds.
The 10 Year Old comes in the customary Bushmills square bottle and bears a green label. In a step up from the White and Black Bush, the green Bushmills comes with a plastic and cork stopper. The whiskey is bottled at 40% alcohol.
In the glass, the whiskey has a mid-gold color that, for an Irish whiskey, suggests a robust bodied flavor. In reality, everything about the Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt is subdued and understated.
On the nose, the whiskey is fruity with just the barest hint of spice. The flavor is sweet like honey with a touch of chocolate, but not obviously so. This whiskey is subdued stuff, and while you don’t need to chase those flavors to find them, they certainly don’t jump out at you either. The finish is silky, clear and short.
For drinkers who dislike bold whiskey, the Bushmills 10 Year Old is not a bad choice. However, I strongly discourage adding water, ice or using it as a mixer. The character of this whiskey is so understated that diluting it quickly blurs it beyond recognition.
Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt retails for between $35 and $45 in the United States, depending mostly on local taxes. In Europe, this green-labeled Bushmills usually sells for about 30 to 35 euros.
The 10 Year Old Single Malt won “Best Irish Single Malt” at the 2007 World Whiskies Awards.