At the end of 2020, many things in our lives are much different from how they were in the previous years. Be it working, traveling, commuting, socializing, shopping or running daily errants – the corona pandemic has turned pretty much all of our routines upside down. Of course, this is also valid for open whiskey tastings in the spirits sections of big shopping malls. Currently, these kinds of events are much rarer than before. And when they happen, they are carried out differently. Here is a recent example …
Yesterday, I went to the prestigious Alsterhaus in Hamburg in my lunch break. Normally, the annual in-house fair Whisky Week would now take place there. But this year, almost all partaking companies canceled their appearance. Only a few distilleries bravely defied the circumstances and showcased their spirits as planned – albeit in strict compliance with the current health and safety regulations. One such trooper: Bushmills from Northern Ireland.
They were represented at Alsterhaus by my pal Adam Dittrich, who is one of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic whisk(e)y presenters I know. Besides the core range of Bushmills, he also had two brand-new limited editions on offer, namely the kick-off duo of the recently released Causeway Collection. One is a 10 Years Old with a Cognac finish (2.5 years) and the other is a 28 Years Old with a Malaga finish (13 years). Both sound really amazing on paper – so I was happy for the chance to actually try them. When I arrived at Alsterhaus, I kept my face mask on, greeted Adam via fist bump rather than handshake and kept a 1.5 meter safety distance. After he had told me about the new whiskeys (which Adam himself had helped to pick from a preselected number of samples), Adam filled me two small 4cl bottles. Normally, I would have sipped the drams alongside our conversation. But this is 2020, you know. So I sipped them later on at home on the couch.
I started with the light and approachable Bushmills 10yo Cognac Cask. It instantly won me over! When sniffed, the fresh and juicy fruits literally jump out of the glass! Green apples, light grapes, overripe kiwis and squeezy limes all join each other for a jolly get-together. They have invited a few other friends, too: whipped cream, oatmeal and white choc muffins. The first sip is wonderfully smooth. Although this whiskey comes with a raised ABV, it pets rather than punches the taste buds. Flavor-wise, green and yellow fruits take the lead. They are being followed by waffles, raisins, grapes and limes. After a while, a cappuchino creaminess joins in and adds a good amount of weight. During the mid-long finish, the cognac casks step forth. The grapey notes from before are taking the spot in the limelight now – and they are enjoying that spot! They appear alongside butter cookies, pineapple slices and a somewhat zesty note. This is seriously great stuff, sold for a very decent price!
When dealing with the Bushmills 28yo Malaga Cask, which I savored second, one has to ask the following question: Where does a finish end and a double maturation start? After 15 years in Bushmills’ signature bourbon and sherry casks, this incredible Irish whiskey was transfered to a Malaga cask – and kept there for another 13 years! The result is an absolute stunner! The whiskey opens with treacly notes of sweetened strawberries, piercing redcurrants and cream-filled cupcakes. Soon, however, darker notes appear to rival the sweetness: mixed spices, sun-dried berries, dark chocolate truffles and heavy tannins. When you deeply breathe in the whiskey’s fumes, you can literally smell the wine-soaked staves of the very active Malaga cask. In the mouth, the taste-a-licous carousel ride continues: Amarena cherries! Bramble jam! Elderflower juice! Icing sugar! Orange sticks! Black licorice wheels! The list goes on and on – a claim that is also valid for the fruity aftertaste. Besides red fruits and black berries, the last sensations evoked by the kingly Bushmills 28 Years Old Malaga Cask also include chocolate cake, raisins and wine gums. The cask strength ABV is beautifully woven into the spirit and the interplay of light and dark notes is highly exciting. A masterful dram!
Sure, this was not your regular whiskey event. Yet, I enjoyed it very much. On the one hand, it was nice to see that Bushmills and their German distributor Eggers & Franke had found a proper way to present their new releases to curious drammers face to face in these difficult times. On the other hand, it was good fun talking whiskey with Adam again after quite a while. Oh, and then there is also the fact that I got to drink generously filled glasses of Bushmills 10yo Cognac Cask and Bushmills 28yo Malaga Cask – both of which I absolutely loved!
Bushmills 10yo Cognac Cask (Single Malt Irish Whiskey / Malaga Finish / 46% / EUR 55)
Bushmills 28yo Malaga Cask (Single Malt Irish Whiskey / Malaga Finish / 53.6% / EUR 380)
*** I attended the open tasting as a regular visitor. ***