Thursday, February 29, 2024

Review | Bushmills 36 years old Hill Street Edition

The Bushmills 36 years old Hill Street Edition is the oldest single malt whiskey to ever be released in Europe by the famous Bushmills distillery. It has been bottled exclusively for The Friend at Hand, the award-winning whiskey shop and museum in Belfast, which is owned by Irish whiskey legend Willie Jack. The shop is located on Hill Street in the Cathedral Quarter, which was the former home of bonded warehouses that stored and matured Bushmills whiskey. The whiskey will only be available to purchase from The Friend at Hand.

The spirit also represents the last remaining cask at the Northern Irish distillery that was distilled in 1986. This was distilled and filled to French oak ex-Oloroso sherry casks on November 26 that year. In 2001, four remaining casks were transferred to one single ex-Oloroso hogshead cask where it began its lengthy secondary maturation. This cask has been nurtured by the watchful eye of Alex Thomas, the Master Blender for Bushmills, until now. The cask has yielded just 208 bottles.

Bushmills holds the oldest distilling license in the world dating back to 1608. However, the official foundation date is widely recognised as 1784. It is located in the small town of Bushmills, which sits on the County Antrim coast in Northern Ireland, and is just two miles from the famous UNESCO World Heritage site at The Giant’s Causeway. The distillery is owned by Proximo, who took control in 2014. 

The annual production capacity of The Old Bushmills Distillery is around six million litres. However, the new Causeway Distillery was officially opened in April 2023 and is located next door. This state-of-the-art distillery, which cost an estimated €37 million to build, also has an annual production of six million litres, with potential to expand further. It is designed to help Bushmills cope with increased demand for the brand and to futureproof production.

The Bushmills 36 years old Hill Street Edition is bottled at 48% ABV and is both of natural colour and non-chill filtered. The whiskey is presented in a bespoke hexagonal American walnut casket, which features an intricate map of Belfast etched in gold. Each bottle will cost £5,000.

Our Tasting Notes

The colour is a deep coppery chestnut and the nose is rich, sweet, and spicy. Aromas of fresh honeycomb, cinder toffee, and milk chocolate rise from the glass and are quickly joined by malty biscuits, caramel, toffee and apricot jam. Savoury and woody spice aromas also build in the background - think of cedar and sandalwood, cinnamon bark and clove with a hint of gingerbread.

On the palate this whiskey feels luscious and luxurious. There is so much depth and complexity from the start. There are plenty of ripe tropical fruit notes up front - imagine pineapple and mango especially - and these are complimented by the fresh honeycomb and milk chocolate notes from the nose. Then comes a delicious nutty characteristic, which is reminiscent of hazelnut praline. This sits underneath and alongside an evolving malty note and adds structure to the whisky. Extra sweetness is added with some apricot and peach compote, and golden syrup notes. Hints of cocoa powder, ginger cake and mocha are also evident. A late dusty wood spice develops, as does a lovely peppery warmth.

The finish is long and warming. The woody spices and ginger-like notes come through nicely, especially once the sweeter and fruitier elements begin to fade. The fresh honeycomb and juicy tropical fruits linger longest of these. The whiskey becomes very savoury at the very end with bitter chocolate and cedarwood shining through.

What's The Verdict?

The Bushmills 36 years old Hill Street Edition is an exquisite whiskey. Irish whiskey from the 1980s and of this age is extremely rare. The opportunity to sample and review it was a true privilege. Anyone who purchases a bottle is buying a true piece of Irish whiskey history. 

The depth and complexity of aroma and flavour is extraordinary and is the result of time, patience and sympathetic casking. The combination gives a profile and taste that simply cannot be recreated in a shorter time span. 

Yes, it is expensive - it is not a 'whisky for everyone' before someone says it (someone always does whenever we review something at a higher price point), but it is a whisky for someone. The price reflects the incredible rarity of the liquid. This is a special whiskey and one that deserves to be treasured, sipped and savoured.

No comments: