First up: Bushmills 12 year old Distillery Reserve.
Sold only at the Old Bushmills distillery itself in Northern Ireland, the Distillery Reserve is "mostly" matured in ex-oloroso casks. Andrew's buddy, AJ, brought him back this bottle which was at its midpoint when I got into it. It had been a while since I'd had any Bushmills, which was mostly due to my Diageo issues. I used to find Bushmills White Label (aka White Bush) to be anywhere from bland to crap. Black Bush and the 10 year old single malt were better than the White, but not enough for me to spring for a bottle. But again keep in mind, it had been six or seven years since I'd had anything except for the White. The good news is that the 12 year old is much better than White Label.
Owner: Diageo (soon to be Jose Cuervo)
Distillery: Old Bushmills Distillery
Location: County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: "mostly" ex-oloroso casks, thus probably some ex-bourbons in there too
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Bottle code: L2166
Thank you, Andrew!
The color is DiageoGold™. The nose is full of fruity fortified wine notes like plum and orange. Those are met evenly with a rush of roasted walnuts and almonds. Smaller notes of Twix wafers and mint chip ice cream pop up. Towards the end of the experience, a big note of dulce di leche emerges. The palate is more reserved. Milk chocolate, orange cream, and spearmint leaves arrive first. Hints of lime and vanilla bean later on. Something about it was reminiscent of Glenfiddichs 15 and 18 (though more spirity) but I couldn't put my finger on it. The finish gets much sweeter with notes of caramel, cherry syrup, and orange oil.
Andrew's wife, Leslie, thinks this whiskey's nose the best part. I agree with her. The nose is great, very rich and full for a low abv whiskey. That low abv is probably what keeps the palate from rising above 'good'. Its texture is watery and the flavors never really lift off. That being said, it's very drinkable. It finishes lightly as well, dissolving and vanishing a bit quicker than I'd like.
Overall, this was a surprise. The nose was good enough to carry this into B-grade territory. I'll say (as I often do) that this could be a killer at 46%abv. And since it's only sold to distillery visitors, it's not like they're exporting millions of cases. So why not have a lighter hand with the water there, Big D? You'd rather lessen the quality of a product so that you can squeeze out a couple hundred more bottles a year? Of course you would.
Anyway, this is decent whiskey. I don't know what they're charging for it, but hopefully it isn't much higher than what one would normally pay for "decent whiskey". If you (the reader) are visiting Bushmills, see if they'll allow you to try a drip of the 12 during the "Tasting Experience" because I always encourage folks to try before they buy.
Availability - Distillery only
Pricing - around 36GBP (thanks to Ol' Jas for the info!)
Rating - 84