Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Review | Bushmills 15 years old Cognac Cask Finish


This whiskey is the latest new addition to the permanent core range of the Northern Irish distillery of Bushmills. The initial 14-year maturation of their signature triple distilled single malt has taken place in first fill and re-fill ex-bourbon barrels, before a luxurious 12-month finish in French oak ex-Cognac casks sourced from the famous Cognac region of France. It has been created by Alex Thomas, the Master Blender at Bushmills.

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 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 15 years old Cognac Cask Finish is bottled at 40% ABV and is initially a UK exclusive release (firstly with Amazon and later with other retailers). It will then spread to other world markets later in 2024. A bottle will cost £49. For further information about this whisky, please visit www.bushmills.com.

Our Tasting Notes

The colour is vibrant gold and the nose is sweet, floral and highly perfumed. Elegant and uplifting aromas of crisp green apple, plump sultana and citrus blossom kick things off and are quickly joined by further aromas of golden syrup, fresh honeycomb and bitter orange peel. Hints of cinnamon, gingerbread and dried pineapple sit in the background.

On the palate this whiskey feels light, fresh and elegant. It is also vibrant and uplifting as on the nose. Sweet and fruity characteristics rise first. Initial notes of caramelised pineapple and stewed apple give way to butterscotch sauce and fresh honeycomb straight from the hive. Plump sultana and Cognac-soaked raisins follow, along with a blob of golden syrup and some candied orange. A hint of apricot jam comes through a touch later.

This is very much a whiskey of two halves. More savoury and spicy notes build during the latter stages - think of white pepper, cinnamon bark and freshly baked gingerbread especially. These characteristics are backed up by hints of clove, mace and all-spice. Further bitter orange oil-like notes also come through. A drying oaky quality, which is reminiscent of recently sawn oak, evolves and holds strong towards the end.

As a result the finish becomes pleasantly dry, warming and woody. The sweet and fruity notes linger to draw out the length and then slowly fade. The sugary plump sultanas are the last to go. This leaves the oak and warming spices to do battle, and the effect is absolutely delicious.

What's The Verdict?

This is a fabulous new whiskey from Bushmills. Ex-Cognac casks remain relatively rare for maturation but we have sampled a few. This is without doubt one of the best. The mix of sweet, fruity and spice is wonderful and compliment the smooth and gentle triple distilled spirit perfectly. It is one of our whiskeys of the year so far and do not be surprised to see it on the final list in six months time. 

This whiskey also offers great value for money - under £50 for a 15 year old age expression these days is almost unheard of. Bushmills should be congratulated for putting it out at such an accessible price point.

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