Bushmills: Steamship Collection: #3 Char Bourbon Cask (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Yellow to grain. Clear. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Quite strong alcohol. Lime. Pumpkin. Toasted teacakes. White chocolate. Crumpets. Burnt sugar. Butter. Light charring. Water adds an aniseed touch.

Body: Creamy. Alcohol warmth. Vanilla toffee. White chocolate. Buttery. Toasted teacakes. Water adds fudge. Light pepper. Very smooth. Creamy lime.

Finish: Toasted teacakes. Butterscotch. Buttery. Creamy lemon. Creamy lime. Water adds more creamy lime. Slight caramel. Aniseed.

Conclusion: This a very gentle Bushmills’ flavour-wise compared to the huge cask ageing influence of the previous two steamship expressions I have tried. That is something that seems somewhat of a mixed blessing here, for as much as a gentle, easy drinking Bushmills can be a cool thing it feels like there is some quite young spirit in this which makes it feel a tad alcohol rough up front and runs roughshod over the lighter flavours.

Neat, and on first pour, it is a bit alcohol rough and empty behind that. It is creamy in feel and taste, but it is hard to dig into the whiskey and get any depth from it. Time helps, clearing the rough fumes and gets this one going. The gentle Bushmills’ spirit character is there now, and showing very clearly the bourbon cask influence. Lots of creamy, buttery character with white chocolate and bready toasted teacakes flavours.

It is very much about the Bourbon influence though – the base spirit seems to give only gentle lime notes and a smooth but solid character to work at as the base.

Water helps bring out the creaminess and adds a touch of peppery spice that gives a bit of pep the whiskey needs. This is where it is at its best – creamy and easy drinking with more of the creamy lemon and lime notes coming out, against the bourbon influence of soft fudge and caramel sweet notes, but with just a few spicier notes. Now, at 40% abv and gentle you need to be careful not to add too much water, and what you get is not unexpected for Bourbon ageing, but here you do get a very clear expression of what that charred bourbon oak can do. It feels for the most part that the base spirit is just a delivery system for that experience.

Not the greatest Bushmills – lacking the range or vibrancy of their best expressions – It seems that pure ageing in charred oak isn’t the best use of their spirit to accentuate its strengths, but it is still an easy drinking and creamy whiskey that really shows the cask. Ok, but not a must have.

Background: Back in the day I loved the more unusual barrel aged expressions of Bushmills that popped up every now and then and I was sad to see them vanish. Thus when they started doing these Steamship expressions, aged in odd cask, they jumped onto my must grab list – though they are only available through travel retail which has made hunting them bloody difficult. This one was grabbed by my parents for me while they were on holiday – many thanks! It is a more standard expression that the past two (Port and sherry casks) being aged as it is, in charred bourbon barrels. Still, it was one I was happy to grab. Went with Arch Enemy – Will To Power while drinking, and went through a few measures as I contemplated my thoughts on it.

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