December 10, 2007

Bushmills 1608

Photo provided

When Bushmills celebrates next year the 400th anniversary of being awarded its license to distill by King James I, it will be doing it with a very special whiskey. This particular commemorative was made using something known as "crystal malt." I was able to get an advance tasting.

Bushmills 1608:

I'm admittedly partial to Bushmills and Black Bush, a pair of very easy to drink Irish whiskies from the iconic Northern Ireland distillery's line. This, the sixth style but in limited quantities, will be on sale in the U.S. only from February through December next year. After that it will be available only at the distillery store.

Bushmills 1608 is a worthy special blend. The crystal malt -- which has a crystallized appearance when germinated, and thus still moist, barleycorns are lightly toasted -- introduces a sweet, toffee note to the final product. Also in the mix are notes from the classic Bushmills malt whiskies matured in a combination of used American white oak and Spanish Oloroso sherry casks.

Bushmills whiskies in general tend toward the sweet side of the palate, and 1608 doesn't diverge from that path: vanilla, honey and toffee notes are prevalent, and the finish reminds me of a high-grade dark chocolate.

All these elements work well with the slightly higher than average potency -- 46% alcohol by volume, or 92 proof. The suggested retail price is $100.

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