Bushmills Irish Single Malt 1991/2015 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary, for Whiskysite.nl and The Single Malt Whisky Shop)

Usually, independently released Irish Malts are sourced from Cooley, especially the peated ones. This time it’s not. Many 1991 peated Irish Malts that were released independently in 2015 were from a batch of peated Bushmills, although you won’t find the name Bushmills anywhere on the label. This particular bottling was done for the Dutch Whisky-shop Whiskysite.nl and Belgian outfit The Single Malt Whisky Shop. let’s see what Jürgen offers us now…

The Whisky Mercenary IrishColor: Gold.

Nose: Nice elegant peat, which rules out Cooley right of the bat. Cooley has a more fatty and rough kind of peat. This smells more refined and a bit sweet. Fruity (yellow). Sure there is this clay element in the peat, that is also present in Cooley, but it still is different. Hardly any smoke although the first sniff was quite sharp. If it’s there it’s already gone. This is a wonderful smelling Malt. The wood shows itself next and it reminds me of pencil-shavings combined with some fresh oak. Again, all kept very much in check. Vanilla is present but again, not in a big way. Deep underneath the hints of red fruit, is also a sweaty element. Animalesk and organic, which only adds to the complexity of this Malt. Well integrated. On top a more heavy aroma emerges, fresh butter. So we have some peat, some wood, some vanilla and some butter and all is nicely held together with a very appetizing fruitiness. If this will taste anything like it smells we’ll have a winner here.

Taste: Ahh my favorite red berry flavour is there. I also find it, and love it, in the 2005 batches of Redbreast. Quite funny since Redbreast isn’t produced at Bushmills, but rather at Midleton. Maybe its Irish. The fruit combines really well with a warming, but still fresh peat. Creamy and with some vanilla, but also a slight hint of burned kerosene, mixed it with the toffee. Pencil-shavings are in here as well. The peat is again light and elegant. Great. Almonds and some wax are next. Almond-milk, mixed with latex,quickly followed by red fruit juice. What a wonderful Malt this is. It smells great, tastes great, up ’till now this is so good that I would even forgive a short finish. Short it is not, but it is of medium length. The aroma’s leave my mouth one by one. The aftertaste is about fruity wax and, a little bit of peat and the memory of red fruit and a light bitter edge to hold it all up.

This is wonderful stuff and yes, Jürgen has done it again. What a wonderful selection. By now long gone, but can be found at different auctions across Europe. Just be ready to dish out quite some money for this, since most aficionado’s know this is excellent. It was quite expensive to boot, and even more now, but it also is quite excellent, so this time you will get what you pay for, and in today’s market, notwithstanding the origin of the Malt, you get more quality out of this for this kind of money, than most other Malts. So a no brainer for me (and I don’t sit on heaps of money)…

Points: 90

I had to do a H2H with a 2005 batch of Redbreast. The Redbreast smells oilier and somewhat less fresh. I would almost say, more Rum-like. It seems to smell a bit of petrol and exhaust and overall seems less complex. Caroni anyone? Don’t underestimate the power of H2H’s. The Bushmills smells more organic and definitely fruitier. Although the difference in ABV is only slightly more than 6%, it makes the Redbreast much softer than it actually is. Again in comparison, the Redbreast has some gout de petrol (like you can find in excellent Rieslings). I scored the excellent Redbreast, 86 points, but today I would score it higher…(but not 90).

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Wild Turkey “Rare Breed” (54.1%, OB, WT-03RB)

The story of Wild Turkey starts with two Irish brothers called James and John Ripey. In 1855, they came to America from Tyrone, Ireland to start a store, selling general goods. They settled on the banks of the Kentucky river near Lawrenceburg, underneath some limestone cliffs. They named their plot “Tyrone”. In 1869 they opened their first distillery. The first distillery quickly became too small, and a new facility was built in 1873, which expanded quickly. The whiskey they made had quite a reputation and was chosen to represent Kentucky at the World Fair.

During prohibition, the distillery still made some Whiskey, for medicinal purposes, and was sold by Austin, Nichols a wholesale grocer specializing in tea, coffee and Spirits, but concentrated solely on Wines and Spirits by 1939. By the way, even in 1939, there was no Wild Turkey in sight. Not the brand anyway, but there seemed to be a bird, yes, a wild turkey.

In 1940 Thomas McCarthy from Austin, Nichols took some samples of 101 proof Whiskey with him on an annual shooting trip to South Carolina, shooting wild turkeys. Since then the party asked for that “Wild Turkey Whiskey”. In 1952 the Ripey family sold the distillery to the Gould brothers, which in turn, sold it off to Pernod Ricard in 1980. By 2009 The Campari Group took ownership of the distillery.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed (54.1%, OB, WT-03RB)Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Wonderful fresh and slightly floral. Just the right amount of wood. Development starts quickly when it gets some air. Becomes very nutty and a bit funky as well. Definite aroma’s of clear glue. Velpon. Dumbed down fresh leather with cookie dough. With even some more air, the nutty part transforms into oak, with still some funky organics going on. It’s not a particular sulphury smell, but it does smell like a compound with sulphur. In the end it settles down, giving off a nice and silky smooth smell. Soft with some obvious vanilla and hints of honey.

Taste: Sweet on entry, but also with quite a white pepper attack. Lots of wood is noticeable now. With the wood the sweetness is almost gone, drying out the whole. Lots of rye florality with powdery and silky smooth vanilla with some tannins. Thin corn sweetness, definitely made with a high rye mashbill. The more this breathes, the more pronounced the rye gets. In fact, one can say the rye takes over. Especially the finish is dominated by the rye florality. The finish is multi layered because even when dominated by the rye, (for a while the rye even gets a bit soapy), the longer you wait the more the wood gets to play a role, although never the lead.

If you like rye, then you gotta love this. The WT-03RB batch ended somewhere in 2014, and is replaced by a new batchless Rare Bread. I’m told the new batch is younger and lighter, even in color. So the advice would be, get one of the older batches if you get the chance.

Points: 82

Bushmills 12yo “Distillery Reserve” (40%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Casks, Circa 2006)

1608. The Old Bushmills distillery got its licence in 1608! It was King James I who then issued the licence to distill to Thomas Phillipps. As most of you very well know, this makes The Old Bushmills distillery the oldest licensed distillery…in the world (Jeremy Clarkson voice-over). Try to imagine how long the distillery may have even existed before that. Since then the distillery was in and out of production many times.

More recent history then: Diageo bought the distillery in 2005 for £200 million, only to trade it with José Cuervo (Tequila) for their 50% share in Mexico’s Don Julio Tequila brand, making Diageo the sole owner of Don Julio. Don Julio was founded in 1942 and is the eleventh largest Tequila brand in Mexico. For the time being I prefer 1608 over 1942…

Bushmills 12yo Distillery ReserveColor: Full gold, slightly “red”

Nose: Creamy with lots of vanilla ice-cream soaked into some shiny cardboard. You must know Vanilla ice-cream from a paper cup. Cheap milk chocolate or fake milk chocolate. Give it a minute and a more fruity note appears. Red forest fruit. Mint infused warm chocolate. Weak after eight. The mint fondant nose stays on. Hint of funky red Sherry. The whole is very restrained. It almost because the glass won’t let it go, or smelling the spirit through a neutral cloth. Molten ice-cream, weak milk chocolate and mint fondant, that this nose in a nutshell. Oh, and some cardboard…

Taste: Fruity and quite sweet. Fruity toffee, which should have been sticky, but tastes watery here. Again a Whisk(e)y that should have had a higher ABV. Remnants of fortified wine. Red berries and black currants I also get from Redbreast 15yo. Here also quite some vanilla. Tiny hint of burnt wood, but also the big paper note from the nose. Recognizable as an Irish Whiskey, but for me it’s also a bit flawed. It has a great side to it, but also a not-so-great side. Paper disturbs me, and takes away from the pleasure of drinking this. It wants to be a Redbreast 15yo or a Jameson’s 18yo, but falls rather short. Equally annoying is the finish, or lack thereof.

If you concentrate a bit, you can taste the sheer potential of this Whiskey. It could have been great since there are many likeable notes in here. Alas some off notes (paper) and the weakness of the whole ruin it for me. I hate to play the where-is-the-finish game. A damn shame, for I believe a potentially great Whiskey was ruined.

Points: 77

Jim Beam “Black” 8yo (43%, OB, Circa 2004)

Jim Beam white was my first Bourbon ever, in fact is was my first Whiskey ever! Especially for the money I always considered the bulk produced White quite decent. Later in my “career” I bought this Black label, which looks more serious and brooding. Just like a bride stands out next to the Terminator. This used to be 8yo, and it said so on the label, but todays version became a NAS. I don’t think it got much younger, but this way, I guess, the company has the possibility to mix in some 6yo and 7yo Whiskies.

Jim Beam BlackColor: Light copper orange.

Nose: Honey, and lots of it. Nice creamy wood. Vanilla. Very friendly and appetizing. Whiffs of burning newspaper, and sometimes a tiny, tiny whiff of fireworks. Toasted cask, but again, not much. The honey never takes a step back, its omnipresent. The more time you are able to give this the more the wood comes to the front. At twice the age of the “White” that should hardly come as a surprise. Well balanced stuff. Still, after the wood, caramel and toffee show themselves more as well as some white pepper and some, wait for it… rural organics. This is pretty good, considering the price and the industrial amounts that are made of this.

Taste: Quite light. Floral. Honey again. After a short delay that warm honey runs down my throat, quickly turning into slightly burnt sugar and oak. Very friendly and not the big hitter the label seems to promise. Definitely family of the White label, with more of everything, just maintaining the friendliness of it all. Extremely easily drinkable. Creamy vanilla and honey again. Quite sweet and lovely, with nice woody characteristics. Oak stays behind after you swallow. Not very complex, but very well-balanced. Especially when given some air and time. Mellow stuff.

The profile of Jim Beam Black fits that of Evan Williams Single Barrel, but half the price. I have to say I don’t know how a more recent “Black” will perform, but this 2004 bottling performs just nicely. Compared to Binny’s Buffalo Trace, the “Black” has way more honey, and seems soapier, which is something I haven’t picked up on, trying it by itself. The Buffalo Trace is more strict and in a way more fruity and even better balanced. I guess now it becomes a comparison of yeast strains. Jim being more floral and the Buffalo being more fruity.

Points: 80

Four Roses “Single Barrel” (43%, OB, H294D, 2003, 70 cl)

After the Four Roses in disguise, called Bulleit, let’s compare it to a true Four Roses (with a similar profile). In 2012 I reviewed the current 50% ABV version of the Four Roses Single Barrel and I refered to this discontinued 43% ABV. version, calling it: “Too weak, very light and too floral and girlie for my taste”. At the time of writing I thought I finished the bottle, but as luck would have it, I found a box of archive sample bottles filled with different Bourbons I used to have. I guess it pays to save something for later! So many years later, let’s find out if this 43% ABV version is as hideous as I seem to remember it! By the way, this one is said to be 8yo and was bottled on 12 April 2003.

Four Roses Single BarrelColor: Orange gold.

Nose: Yup it’s the floral rye again. Lilac and Lily of the valley. Easily recognizable and even more pronounced than the new 50% ABV version, the only bottle I had, I forgot to fill up an archive sample of, so no direct comparison is possible, only from memory and notes. Fruity and floral, it’s almost a perfume. Powdered vanilla and coffee creamer. Almonds and fresh cookie dough. With air dusty wood comes into the fold. Elegant and perfumy. Not a lot of wood actually. Well integrated. A lot of honey is starting to emerge too as well as some turkish Delight and licorice, and anise. Don’t like how the honey and floral aroma’s turn out together. Add to that a slightly acidic fruit note, and you’ve lost me a bit. No notes of toasted cask. It comes across as a designed Bourbon. A Four Roses for people who wear a bow-tie, not for rugged lumberjacks. It is actually a Bourbon for the metro man. Although it’s not quite clear what I am, this is my least favorite Four Roses expression to date, but wait, I still have to taste it again after all those years. The nose is something I don’t always like, although I do recognize the quality.

Taste: Paper and wood, pencils (cedar). Quite a lot of waxy notes. Lightly sweet, but the sweetness washes away with the added water to be replaced with some sour, and slightly bitter oak. Honey and creamy sweetness, but here these two do a better job at integrating with each other. A bit weak on entry and not so long a finish, built around the paper and weak woody note, especially when compared to its stronger brother. Good aftertaste though, nice aroma’s return and a great creaminess is added to the aftertaste. Nice delayed effect. The aftertaste even seems stronger than the finish itself, nicer too. The move to 50% ABV was a good move. Alright, this isn’t my least favorite Four Roses anymore. Now it is the “Yellow Label”…

Even though I prefer the 50% ABV “Single Barrel”over this one. Both are well made and do resemble each other. This 43% ABV has some exaggerated floral Rye and doesn’t combine all that good with the honey and fruity notes. The 50% ABV is the same, but for me is better balanced. Having said that, this may be a tad more special, more unique, so it is definitely worth seeking out.

Points: 83

Bulleit 6yo “Frontier Whiskey” (40%, OB, Circa 2010)

Bulleit is a brand owned by Diageo. Diageo is the biggest drinks company in the world and they are known for loving to make a buck. Nothing wrong with that. Making booze is not a charity you know. In 1983 sensible economics made Diageo close a lot of distilleries in Scotland, and Diageo are also the ones who closed the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery, their only distillery in the US, correct me if I’m wrong. Why then put out a Bourbon Brand? Economics, getting a foot in the door? The regret closing Stitzel-Weller? Who cares what the reasons are. They decided to put out a brand of Bourbon and had it made by Four Roses. The mashbill contains around 28% Rye, which is right in the middle of Four Roses’ own B (35% Rye) and E (20% Rye) mashbills. And at Four Roses they know what they are doing. By the way, The old Stitzel-Weller distillery is now a centre for promoting Bulleit.

Bulleit BourbonColor: Light orange gold.

Nose: For me, Rye Whiskies always smell a bit floral, even though they (should) have a taste with a bite. I don’t know how to describe it differently. This isn’t a Rye Whiskey, but it does smell like it, sort of. High Rye mashbill it is. Dusty, floral and vegetable. Buttery with dry leather. Delayed mint. Funky stuff like crushed beetle and cold dishwater. Old honey and do I detect a wee whiff of urine in there? Well, don’t be fooled, this smells rather nice, but we already know, Four Roses know what they are doing, but i might have said that already. Powdery and dry with some charcoal. Well balanced, especially considering its age.

Taste: Smoother than the nose led me to believe. Slight dryness, but also quite sweet. Sugar water. Funky rural toffee and a bit of leather. Some toasted oak, but the focus lies more on the toast then the oak. Nevertheless, the oak is there, but it’s hardly woody at all. Creamy, but a bit too thin. I believe 40% ABV. is a bit too low. Spicy and chewy Rye. Light, but good. Medium to short finish, with a slight bitter edge towards the aftertaste. I do believe the distillate to be promising, but it is a bit killed by the low ABV.

I didn’t like it when I first opened it, but I warmed up to it now. I remember I didn’t like the pronounced florality of it, and it may have been slightly soapy when it was freshly opened. In the end Four Roses make a pretty good Whisky, even if they do it for Diageo. I would ditch the 40% ABV version and get the 45% ABV version if you have the chance, but it isn’t available in all markets.

Points: 81

John Jameson & Son 7yo “Three Star Pure Old Pot Still” (43%, Bow St. Distillery, Dublin Whiskey, 75 cl, Circa 1965)

Who would have thought I’d still have an ace up my sleeve considering Jameson’s? The title seems a bit of a mouth full, but when you are identifying old bottles like these, you have to identify minute differences on the labels to carefully date them. I don’t know when exactly they started to use this exact label, but I do know the last year they used it was in 1968. So “circa 1965” is a carefull guess.

The Bourbon world has adopted the old “Stitzel-Weller” distillery as the ultimate Bourbon heaven on earth. Similarly, the Irish have the old “Bow Street” distillery that was/is situated in Dublin. The Bow Street distillery started working in 1780 with John Jameson acting as General manager. John bought the distillery in 1805. The distillery was eventually was closed in 1971. Since 1997 it is opened again, but alas only as a “tourist” attraction.

John Jameson & Son 7yo Three Star Pure Old Pot Still (43%, Bow St. Distillery, Dublin Whiskey, 75 cl, Circa 1965)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Extremely fruity steam punk kind of Whisky. Hints of old paint. Even if I would have tried this blind, you know when you have an old Whisky on your hands. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; They don’t make them like this anymore, and the other Jameson reviews just prove that. Wonderful old dried fruit intertwined with almonds and wax. It really smells of steam and coal and a bit of old engines. Warm machine oil and vanilla. Very appetizing. When you let it breathe the fruit gets less pronounced and a more dusty creaminess starts to emerge. A dustiness which seems to be coming from wood. A wonderful experience.

Taste: Quite different. It starts with old newspaper and luckily the waxy fruitiness hold it up. Still, somewhat lighter than the nose. The nose is special and quite “thick” this is less so. paper and wood but both are light and well-balanced with the rest of the aroma’s. Slightly warm apply note comes next. Those of you who are regular Calvados drinkers will recognize this apply note, and now that I recognize it, it’s there in the nose too. Hints of caramel and slightly burned caramel emerge, which is noticeable on the tongue. Not everything stays behind for the finish, but still a nice, but short finish, but we are left with a nice aftertaste. Good, but not as special as the nose was. The nose really oozes with times long gone.

The current Jameson and this Jameson are both tasted early in the morning before breakfast. The current Jameson is a nice aperitif. It’s niceness is in the detail, which is much easier to pick up in the morning, than in the evening, when you have just eaten and your palate is tired. The current Jameson has lost much of it charm when I tried it in the evening, after finishing the previous review. Tasting this, I fear this one will be better in the morning too…

Points: 87