Food & drink

Bushmills give premium whiskey seekers Cause to Way up options

Bushmills Master Blender Alex Thomas with the Ireland-only expressions in the 2022 Causeway Collection.
Kenny Archer

THE Seekers, a spoken-word track/ poem by singer-songwriter Joshua Burnside, is an apt title to accompany the release of the Ireland-only expressions of this year’s Bushmills Causeway Collection, which officially went on sale on Friday past.

Whiskey connoisseurs will be hunting down bottles from the 2002 Vermouth Cask and the 2012 Pomerol Cask, not only for their quality but their rarity – although the makers cunningly haven’t revealed how many of the limited number of bottles are actually available.

The real die-hards may be heading around the world - to Australia, France, Germany, Poland, and the UK, as well as to global travel retail outlets – in search of the eight other versions.

Those include the oldest ever Bushmills expression, a 33-year-old finished in port barrels, two Madeiras (25- and 30-year-old), a 1997 rum, a 12-year-old tequila, 11-year-old Cognac and Banyuls versions, and a 2012 Burgundy. The Banyuls, for whose who – ahem – didn’t know, is a dessert wine/aperitif made from old vines grown on the French Pyrenees.

All have the added aspect of being part of the first series overseen by Bushmills Master Blender Alex Thomas, having succeeded the legendary Helen Mulholland late last year.

Ballymoney woman Thomas has secured a first for her home island with the world’s first ever vermouth cask finished Irish single malt whiskey release; matured in oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels for more than 18 years, it was then aged for nearly two years in casks of that fortified wine, from the Piedmont region of northern Italy.

The Pomerol is special too, casks from the smallest of all the major Bordeaux wine appellations, which produces some of the world’s most expensive and sought-after red wines.

Thomas says the ‘Vermouth’ is “a whiskey that will undoubtedly challenge consumers to experience Bushmills in a different light and will excite every whiskey fan.”

As for the ‘Pomerol’, casks which are rarely used in whiskey ageing, Thomas feels that “the complexity of the flavour profile really compliments the smooth and approachable flavour of Bushmills, together they have proven to be the perfect match.”

The ‘premiumisation’ of whiskey is a concern to some, especially in this economically difficult times.

This writer was just offered the opportunity to buy one of 88 exclusive bottles. For a cool E80,000. Admittedly you also get a designer gold and diamond ring and an extraordinary protective housing. But, still… I only bought one.

The other aspect of the premium argument is that high end whiskeys are a vital aspect of many distilleries’ business models nowadays.

If the market exists for expensive whiskeys – and it assuredly does – then Bushmills and other Irish outlets would be foolish not to enter it.

Besides, as well as the unusual natures of the offerings available on the island, Irish buyers are arguably lucky in another regard – while some of this third, now annual Causeway Collection, will cost E1200/£1080, the Pomerol (54.2% ABC) is available at €115/£100 for 700ml, with the Vermouth (48.2%) priced at €250/£225.

Watch / embed Bushmills x Joshua Burnside on YouTube

Food & drink