Irish Whiskey

Bushmills

Here the malt whiskey has a share of grain sweetness that comes through, making this the best Bushmills for mixing.

Nose: Young. That grassy edge once again this time reminiscent of wet raffia. A nutty, floury note. Firm with a very slight metallic edge. Palate: Light and sweet but a youthful cereal, slightly hard core before a tantalizing burst of peachy fruit at the back of the palate. Finish: Becomes dry. Quite short. Comment: Its youth just gives it a hard quality.

Bushmills Black Bush

Smooth, deep and complex, this is one of the great Irish blends. While the standard Irish characteristics are present, there is something more in this one, something earthy and rich. As with other whiskies of fine quality, it’s best without ice that would cover its complex flavors.

Nose: Rich and ripe, with some dark (cooked) black fruit. Raisin, cocoa, praline, coconut. Substantial smooth succulence. Palate: Sweet start then it firms up in the centre where the nuts return melting into the chocolate and raisin. Chewy and tongue coating. Showing some complexity. Finish: Long, sweet. Comment: Beautifully balanced.

Bushmills 10 Year

An Irish whiskey from 100% malted barley, the youngest whiskey in these bottles is 10 years old. This is the standard expression of Bushmills, with vanilla and a soft sweetness, with a long finish.

Nose: Intense malt with a unmistakable sherry richness. Quite firm, fruity and clean. Palate: Sweet, quite lush start: malt, sherry and soft spice. Finish: Lashings of toffee with bigger sherry than of old. Dark fudge sweetness gives way to much drier cocoa notes. Comment: Quite fruity and full where once it was slightly powdery and over-dependent on the malt character alone.

Bushmills 16 Year

Three different woods, the third being old port casks, give this fine whiskey hints of vanilla, fruit, nuts and even dark berries (from the port casks).

Nose: Big, fat and sweet. Butter and raisins. Forms slowly with pineapple, stewed fruits, malted milk, coconut, cereal, cocoa, orange. Big (but balanced) oak. Palate: Round and rich. Sweet dried fruits, brazil nut, coffee, soft malt, popcorn. Good grip. Oak in balance. Finish: Long. Hazelnut. Comment: Plenty of oak but the spirit holds its own. An extra dimension to the 10.

Bushmills 21 Year

After 19 years in American oak and Spanish sherry casks, this lovely Bushmills spends two years in Madeira drums. Among the elegant results are dark chocolate and toffee.

Nose: A lifted, perfumed fruit-filled nose, soft and pulpy, apricot yoghurt and crannachan (raspberry oats sugar and cream). Palate: Starts sweet, soft and juicy starting with apricot ending up with redcurrant and cherry. Finish: A very light smokiness. Comment: Lovely balance. A whisky for those who like things on the fruity side.

Jameson Original

This classic is sweet and lightly floral on the nose, while the Jameson balance of sweetness and spice asserts itself on the palate.

Nose: Soft and creamy (coconut), acetone, then a hard metallic note reminiscent of aluminum cigar tubes. Peanut brittle. Has some sweetness with water, but there’s some young stuff in there. Palate: Light, soft, grassy. Vanilla, cane juice, apricot jam. With water a nagging harshness. Finish: Dry raffia, wet reeds.

Jameson 12 Year

A more complex Jameson, the 12 year is warm and spicy, with undertones of nuts and some wood. Aged in sherry casks, it has notes of sweetness, though the spice remains assertive.

Nose: Leather handbags, new car smell. Seville oranges and dusk in Valencia. Palate: I have died and gone to heaven. Warm oily spice, cardamom, cinnamon and some damn fine sherry notes. Finish: Rumbles on for ages. Tickling pepper and milk chocolate. Comment: For the money, this is the best damn blend you will ever, ever taste.

Michael Collins

A blend of malt and grain whiskies designed to be easy on the palate, this whiskey mixes very well. Aged in small former bourbon casks (American oak), those hints of vanilla, honey and citrus are present on the nose.

Nose: Delicate, sweet short crust pastry. Marzipan and raspberry jam. Raisins. Palate: Oily, vaguely fruity, honeyed. Faintly herbal. Finish: More like a desert wine than a whisky. Rich, creamy and filling. Comment: Visually, a very attractive whisky, rich amber and gloriously viscous.

Middleton 30 Year

A classic pure pot still whiskey that is worth the indulgence for sheer sophisticated pleasure. There is no more celebrated Irish whiskey, none that gives you its elegant honey and soft dried fruit with hints of toasted almonds. Think of something to celebrate.

Nose: Subtle and complex. Very spicy with sandalwood, discreet oakiness, cereal and peach. In time even more spice and a lovely juiciness. Palate: Long and very perfumed with layers of flavor: lilac, oak, toffee. Finer than the others. Finish: An unusual vigorous climax to a stunning offering. Long, spices, oak. Comment: Don’t know how Barry Crockett keeps this standard up year on year, the most robust MVR in ages. Bravo!

Powers

This outstanding whiskey works for rocks or mixing, where its robust character lets it stand up to all comers. It has spicy grain with a slight hint of barley sweetness, but don’t let that fool you. You could chew this whiskey.

Nose: Powers has a very soft and easy nose. Generally sweet, the Powers nose is very inviting with light wood tones, vanilla, slight spice and an undercurrent of brown sugar. Palate: Powers is instantly heavier in the mouth with sweet vanilla chocolate, a slight wood taste and the slightest herbal undertones. Finish: By the time we get to the mid palate, things soften out considerably, almost to the point of dulling, and the finish just peters out. Comment: Powers is an extremely affable Irish Whiskey and an excellent pick for an affordable, easy drinking Irish Whiskey.

Red Breast 12 Year

Here is an exceptionally smooth, dry Irish whiskey. Its depth and complexity gives spice with the sweetness, with floral undertones. The finish is long, peppery and satisfying.

Nose: There’s a fruity, almost rye-like quality, and deft, honeyed sweetness, a touch of sherry, cream soda vanilla and some peppery notes. Breathtaking! Palate: The flavors take off in all directions. Spiciness and a pot still backbone softened by sherry. Very firm with some toffee. Finish: Oily, some licorice and enormous sweet-sour complexity. Spicy and long. Comment: Delicious, soothing, contemplative. A great whiskey. Makes me want to get on a plane to Dublin immediately.

Tullamore Dew

A milder choice among Irish whiskies, you get hints of lemon along with the malt and spice and a gentle, lingering finish.

Nose: A most unusual, high, furniture polish and spirity nose. Acetone and meths, yet not unattractive. Palate: Oily, with dark berries and malt. Finish: Quite short and nutty. Lingering vanilla behind oak. Comment: A curious beast, indeed.

All Whiskey & Scotch Descriptions by Mark Cullison