March has finally arrived, and that means it’s time to celebrate our Irish heritage as the rainbow leading to St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) continues to brighten. And while some 34.5 million Americans are at least partially Irish, some of us – myself included – haven’t a drip of green blood flowing through our veins. Which is why we’ve got to get authentic in a, um, different way. And by “different,” I mean booze.
Now, the obvious choice for an Irish distillery to highlight would be Jameson – and that’s why we’re going to a completely different direction. Instead, this month we’re going to look at Bushmills Irish Whiskey, whose Old Bushmills Distillery isn’t in the Republic of Ireland at all. Instead, it’s nestled in the village of Bushmills, in Northern Ireland – which, for all you non-politicos out there, is actually part of the United Kingdom. But that doesn’t make it any less Irish, right? Not as far as we’re concerned!
Here are the three best bottles Bushmills produces.
Just above Bushmills Original on the distillery’s whiskey hierarchy, Black Bush is a blend of 80 percent Bushmills’ single-malts and 20 percent grain whiskey. The blend produces a rich flavor that delivers subtle hints of malt and chocolate that develop during the time spent in former Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. While some Irish whiskey tends to be sweet, Black Bush keeps the sugars to a minimum to create a smooth and supremely drinkable dram.
Bushmills Distillery Reserve 12 Year Single Malt
The only bad part about Bushmills 12 Year is that you likely can’t get your mitts on a bottle without traveling to Old Bushmills Distillery – that’s the only place it’s officially available. But if you can grab a taste for St. Patty’s Day, you’ll find that the sweet citrus notes linger on the nose of the 12 Year, with vanilla and floral undertones. The body is subtle and straightforward, with a clear reminder of the sherry casks where this expression spent the majority of its years.
Bushmills 21 Year Single Malt
The rarest of the bunch, Bushmills 21 Year is produced in limited quantities each year, which means you’ll have to lay out around $200 for a bottle – if you’re lucky enough to get one. Unlike other Bushmills expressions, the 21 Year ages in three different types of containers: American bourbon barrels and Oloroso casks, where it ages for at least 21 years; the whiskey is then transferred to Madeira drums, which give the 21 Year it’s unique taste. If do get your hands on a bottle, you’ll be greeted with a bold nose of toffee, mocha, and spiced fruit notes. A sip presents itself with a thick flavor of honey, nuts, wood, caramel, and spices, with a lasting finish that will leave you with nothing to do but polish off the bottle – you know, responsibly.