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Monday, April 18, 2022

Bushmills 15 year old 2002 SMWS 51.9

Cork distillery reviews last week. Ulster distillery reviews this week. Midleton. Bushmills. Both producing whiskies that fare better when served up at higher strengths than what we usually see from the standard offerings. Bushmills is particularly guilty of maximum dilution. Even their regular 21-year-old has always been 40%abv. Luckily I obtained three samples of cask strength Bushmills single malt last year, and now is a good time to dig in.

First up, a 15yo from whisky's No Homers Club.

Distillery: Old Bushmills
Owner: Casa Cuervo
Location: County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Type: Single Malt
Distillations: Three
Age: 15 years old (21 Feb 2002 - 2017)
Maturation: first-fill bourbon barrel
Cask: 51.9
Cutesy SMWS name: Sinful indulgence
Outturn: 240 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.2%
(from a bottle split)


The nose begins with a mix of aged malt and corn whiskies, but it's the barrel that ultimately takes over. Mint, caramel chews and toasted coconut lead the way, with smaller notes of anise and roses in the background. Vanilla, black pepper and plums arrive first in the palate, with hints of grapefruit and cinnamon red hots around the edges. It gradually becomes more floral with time. It finishes with vanilla fudge, flowers and acidic fruit.

I'm not going to water it all the way down the Bushmills Basic 40%abv, but it'll be close...

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

Vanilla, whipped cream and orange candy in the nose, followed by Cow Tales candy and cinnamon. The palate has become much sweeter, all tangerines and vanilla. And that's where the finish sits as well, with a bit of black pepper.


Nothing "sinful" here, except that the barrel's dominance is a slight disappointment. No "indulgence" either, since this is a mild, comfy drinker. In fact, the official 16yo is more complex at 40%abv, than this whiskey at full power. Or at least it was when I last had the 16 five years ago. I'm not saying this 15yo single cask is a dud, rather it is of a very contemporary style, with the US oak riding up front, telling the other passengers to STFU with great success. (Ugh, lumpy metaphor.) Next up, a Bushmills in a refill barrel...

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 82

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