Nose: Spicy, dried fruits, mixed herbs, dates, and smoked almonds.
Palate: Earthy, herby, a little spicy – also a little sweet. There are some berry and plum notes. Some faint cereal notes – a mixture of Weet-Bix and All-Bran. Traces of the peat casks that some of the whisky was slumbering in hang around.
Mouthfeel: A decently medium weight in the mouth with a soft and silky feel. A slight alcohol burn.
Finish: This whisky has a fairly long finish. Spicy, full of peat, and the earthy notes from the palate continue right through.
This whisky is a non-age statement un-peated Italian blended whisky that was aged in a combination of ex-Islay peated Scotch whisky casks, and Marsala wine casks. It was bottled at 43% ABV with no added colouring, and no chill-filtration.
This is an interesting whisky; a blend of malted barley, malted rye, and malted wheat that was aged for three years in Sicilian ex-marsala casks before being finished in ex-Islay peated Scotch casks. The spice from the rye is quite prominent throughout, as is the peat notes from the peated ex-Islay Scotch casks that it was finished in. There is also a sweet fruitiness that lasts most of the journey as well, undoubtedly from the three years it spent in the Sicilian wine casks.
Although I first tasted this whisky at Whisky Live, it is hard to truly appreciate a whisky when you’re drinking that many of them so close together. Never the less, it captured my attention, and after acquiring a bottle of it, I presented it in a couple of European whisky tastings that I held – where it was generally warmly received. Although it was against some other intriguing competition from Goldly’s (Belgium), Slyrs (Germany), Millstone (Netherlands), Floki (Iceland), Mackmyra (Sweeden), and Santis (Switzerland); there were a few people that rated it as their favourite, and most people thought it was reasonable or better. After the tastings, I sat down with what was left and gave it some due consideration on its own.
If you haven’t seen a picture of the Puni distillery, prepare to be amazed – the distillery building is more what you’d expect from a modern-art gallery than a whisky distillery. Absent are the pagodas and chimneys, present is an almost mesh-like cube situated in the idyllic countryside of the northern Italian Alps. The distillery gets its name from the nearby Puni river. The surrounding region has been growing rye since the times of the Roman Empire, and it is this rye that Puni has malted and used in this whisky. The amazing cube distillery building houses not just the distillery, but also warehousing where some of the Puni whisky slumbers, whilst the distillery also uses abandoned WWII-era underground bunkers to age the rest.
Whilst I could not say that this whisky has been one of my favourites, I am by no means going to struggle to finish my bottle of it – it’s both a pleasant whisky, whilst also being full of character. The world would definitely be a better place if more whiskies had both of these attributes.
Nose: Stewed apples and berries, sultanas, fruitcake, and golden syrup.
Palate: Smooth, sweet, nut-laden Christmas cake, red fruits, and sweet spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. Some of the malt comes through nice and rich, along with some punchy sweetness from the grain.
Mouthfeel: Mid-weight, slightly oily, slightly creamy, almost juicy, very smooth – no burn at all.
Finish: Lingering for a short time, sweet red fruits, even more sweet spices.
Punchier than most blended-malt scotches, but smoother and richer than most mixed blends; Black Bush is an extremely easy drinking whiskey – one that you could just as easy drink in summer out on the balcony, or watching the footy, or at the pub whilst hanging out with a group of mates.
I’m generally a big fan of whiskies from the Old Bushmills distillery, and although it doesn’t have the weight or complexity of the 16, or 21 year olds; the Black Bush is still an excellent dram. Black Bush was one of my first whiskies, and definitely the first ‘regular’ in my collection; and still resides there all these years later despite many many bottles of more expensive whiskies – I don’t know whether it’s my half-Irish ancestry, or Black Bush’s rich flavours yet easy accessibility that keeps it there.
The distillery is located in the beautiful township that shares the same name, up north near Giant’s Causeway, and for a very long time has been the only commercial distillery in Northern Ireland. The Old Bushmills distillery reputedly got its license to distil in 1608 – making it the oldest whisky distillery still in existence. The company that originally built the current distillery was founded in 1784, and after several closures and a devastating fire has been in continuous operation since 1885. According to some historians, evidence of distillation at or near Bushmills dates back to 1276 – clearly whisky is in the blood around those parts! It is the only currently operating distillery in Ireland that was in existence prior to 1975, and one of only two distilleries currently operating in Northern Ireland – with the Echlinville Distillery opening in 2013 (the first new distillery to be licensed in Northern Ireland in 125 years).
Although Black Bush won’t knock anybody’s socks off for any one reason, it is a superb easy-going all-rounder whiskey, and one that will likely always remain as a regular in my cupboard.