Bushmills 16yr Old Single Malt
Review: Bushmills 16 Yr Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey 88/100
A Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on November 7, 2009
The practice of making whisky at the Old Bushmills Distillery can be traced back to 1608 when King James I granted Sir Thomas Phillips a royal licence to distill ‘uisce beatha’, the gaelic for ‘water of life’. This grant serves as the first documented evidence of the distillation of whiskey at the site although at that time it was not yet called Bushmills. The first known reference to the Old Bushmills Distillery was in 1743 when, according to Victorian whiskey journalist Alfred Barnard, the site was “in the hands of smugglers”‘. Now over 400 years later, the Bushmills brand is owned by Diageo, however all of the whiskey produced under the Bushmills name is still produced at the Old Bushmills Distillery in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
The Bushmills 16 Yr Old Single Malt is composed of whiskey distilled three times. A portion of the whiskey is aged in American oak (bourbon) casks and a portion is aged in Spanish oak (Oloroso sherry) casks. All of this whiskey is aged for 16 or more years. The final whiskey is blended prior to finishing in old oak Port wine pipes. With such a variety of oak used in the aging and finishing in there is the potential for great complexity.
In the Bottle (4.5/5)
Bushmills is packaged in an attractive brown oval cardboard sleeve to protect the spirit. Curiously enough the bottle shape is square rather than oval. A nice write-up on the whiskey can be found on the cardboard sleeve. And the corkage is more than satisfactory.
In the Glass (9.0/10)
In some ways the initial aroma is more like a grain whiskey than a malt, spicy rye-like notes and mild anise licorice. But deeper in the glass the malty barley notes come out as strong as ever. There is just a little oiliness, giving tiny legs in the glass, and if you wait, fruity berries and toffee vanilla sit even further down.
In the Mouth (53/60)
Irish Whiskey has its own unique flavour heritage, spicy anise and a smooth grainy profile. Personally I find Irish whiskey to be smooth and easy to drink. Bushmills 16yr Single Malt does not disappoint in this regard. The Irish heritage stands proudly here, but this is a single malt, not a grain whiskey. This means we get a little more sweetness on the palate, and I found the anise flavour was more licorice like.
However the whiskey has other complex flavours not commonly found in other Irish whiskeys. A firm but mellow vanilla bourbon (from the American whiskey oak), a subtle but slightly heavy sherry smoke-filled with dry fruit (from the Oloroso cask), and fruity cherrylike flavours from the port pipes. It is in these nontypical Irish whiskey flavours that I find small flaws. We have a little too much competition for attention. In particular the Oloroso sherry note is just a tad heavy, and clashes with the other flavours. The Oloroso sherry tends to dominate rather than compliment the Irish heritage of this whiskey.
In the Throat (14/15)
One of the nicest finishes I have experienced in Irish whiskey. The competing flavours have settled down and it is really nice to feel the gentle burn. The finish is clean and crisp as well. Bushmills have triple distilled this product, and I believe this has contributed greatly to the crisp clean finish. A nice spiciness stays in the throat.
The Afterburn (8.0/10)
The complex mouth requires me to be in a very receptive mood to appreciate it. I find the sherry influence just a little offsetting. The Bushmills 16 Year old Single Malt is better than some whiskeys I sip regularly; but, I believe it could be much more than it is.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
I am always asked what my numbers actually mean. In order to provide clarification, you may (loosely) interpret the scores 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 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)
Note: This review was revised on February 21, 2012. The revisions were minor but included some fixed typos, some sections modified strictly for clarity of information, and the addition of a new Introduction. The tasting notes and scores have not changed.