Bushmills: Caribbean Rum Cask Finish (Irish Blended Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Fast, thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Noticeable alcohol. Spicy. Dark rum. Sugar cane. Strawberry. Rhubarb touch. Cake sponge. Water makes cleaner.

Body: Smooth. Light lemon cakes. Dry grain alcohol. Strawberry. Red raspberries. Toffee. Sweet, dark rum. Vanilla. Water makes smoother. Adds grapes. Soft lime. Cherries. Brown sugar.

Finish: Alcoholic jelly touch. Red fruit medley. Dry rum. Brown sugar. Treacle touch. Alcohol air in general. Water makes burnt brown sugar. More clear rum. Dry rice.

Conclusion: This is rum finished, rather than fully aged in a rum cask like the Travel Exclusive Steamship edition. This is a blended whisky with grain whiskey in it unlike that Single Malt Steamship, and the classic 12 Year Caribbean Rum finish travel exclusive Bushmills. It is a no age statement whisky, similar to the Steamship but unlike the 12 year.

So, with all that said, you would expect the Steamship Rum edition to be superior and probably closer to the classic 12 year right? Yet, somehow it is not. Which is a long way around saying that this blended rum cask finish is pretty cool.

So, let’s get the bad side out of the way first. I’m not sure how much grain whiskey was used in this, but the neutral, rough grain kind of spirit is evident here. Not a great look, especially in the finish where it hangs around. Water mutes that but also takes down the vibrancy of the whisky a bit. So, the choice, especially for the aroma, is slight grain alcohol tingle or a more muted character.

That said, this feels pretty joyous despite its flaws. There are light citrus notes that are familiar to the Bushmills spirit that are evident there – lemon and lime notes particularly make a show. Now these citrus notes are by far not the main show, this is very much about the rum finish, but it does show one of the reasons I prefer this over the fully rum aged version – it gives more room for the native Bushmills character to show alongside the unusual ageing and give more complexity and range to the whiskey.

The rum is very present but not overwhelmingly dominant, showing as a mix of red fruit, rum itself obviously, and burnt sugar. Lovely and vibrant, yet the base Bushmills character gives that fresh contrast and make it pretty smooth overall despite the grain rough edges.

So, to no surprise, the 12 year old single malt Caribbean rum finish that now only exists in my idealised memories of it, is better than this. However, this, nearly 20 years on, is still slightly cheaper than that was – and we have had a long time of whiskey getting more expensive in the mean time. It is a heck of a lot easier to get than that was and , oh yes, this still exists – unlike that one.

So, go in expecting the grain edges, a slight rice in the finish and accepting it won’t be a classic and you will find a fun rum finished Bushmills. One that will do as a stand in while I plead for them to pull their damn finger out and remake the proper 12 year single malt take again. It is far from perfect, but a decent price point for a fun dram, so it does the job for me.

Background: Ok, this one has some background indeed, as has been hinted at in the main notes. The travel exclusive 12 Year Caribbean Rum Cask Finish Bushmills Single Malt was one of my first real great whiskeys I tried. So, since that was only available for a short time, I have spent the years since trying to find something similar. So, when I found this, a blended no age statement Bushmills, with that cask finish, at Independent Spirit I had to grab it and give it a try. Since it was calling back to a more innocent age I went with The Eels: Beautiful Freak as music. Loved that album and hadn’t listened to it for a while.