One of the great blessings of living in my home, the Great Southern Land is we are home to the most beautiful, blue, fertile, and bountiful oceans on earth. Surrounded by them, three hundred sixty degrees, all to ourselves. We as Australians take this for granted every day. When I was a kid we used to absentmindedly chant the national anthem “We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil. Our home is girt by sea. Our land abounds in nature’s gifts. Of beauty rich and rare” and my late grandfather would take us out in his tinny out to Tuan to fish for barramundi, perch and flathead. We never appreciated how well we had it. I’ll never forget a year ago while I was *working (and by working, I mean providing free labor for a nursery in the name of what I then thought was training for another qualification that amounted to nothing more than a few extra lines on my resumé for employers to toss in the bin, that until the last week of that almost whole year course was completely irrelevant to the qualification I was acquiring) the pub I went to afterwards for lunch had the best fresh seafood specials, made from the same squid, prawns and whiting I spent all those school holidays out in pursuit of in the Great Sandy Strait. They were always beautifully piping hot, served crumbed and cut apart inside were always that perfect fleshy fluffy white I could never achieve cooking myself, served alongside generous portion of delicious chips and salad of shredded carrot, red onion, sundried cherry tomatoes, and rocket. The aromatics of the crisp hot crumbed seafood, chips, and the balsamic vinegar dancing on the palette and on the nose. And beside it, I always had a nice icy glass of cool refreshing Irish whiskey. I’ve always maintained that asides from Bundaberg rum, the higher shelf versions that do the label justice, which in pubs is stocked rarely if ever as opposed to the baseline cocktail version, Irish whiskey was the best drink for seafood. A good trip to the pub always did a lot to soothe my temper at the events of the day, being scrawny and physically disabled and there for the supposed purpose of attaining qualifications I was useless at all the menial chores the owner assigned to us and was ignored and ridiculed. So in short, I’d have been content with just the whiskey. The relaxed mild taste of the malt pairing perfectly with the equally mild taste of the whiting or flathead that the pub served that day, or whatever by some divine miracle I managed to cook myself without ruining. The Irish, it is no secret, have also a proud tradition with their sea, with which they have also full access. It’s always been a great ambition of mine to return there one day to see the Emerald Isle with my own eyes, the bracing cold wind and rain, the green coastal cliffs, to fish the rich teeming seas. The Irish sailed the seas all over from the Caribbean, to here in Australia. Some unfortunately did not arrive here by choice, as the potato famine crossed the land many were driven to crime to feed themselves and their families, and when caught by the ruling British were shipped off to Australia. I know unfortunately little of my Irish background, but I know it did not go as far back as the Irish potato famine and were not prisoners, especially since my great-grandfather was still there and fought in the Royal Air Force as a Lancaster tailgunner during World War II. I can only imagine what thoughts must have crossed their minds, venturing into the new world to the Great Southern Land, where the bizarre marsupials roamed and huge crocodiles patrolled the mangroves. But they would always have a little taste of home, as the many who came before them brought with them, Irish beer and whiskey.
G’day guys, I’m here today pumped to bring to you my first full-blooded, by-the-book, single malt Irish whiskey. Bushmills 10 Year old. This is a real bigtime label that have made a real good name for themselves. And clearly they have had time, since this label has been in the business since the 17th century. So unexpectedly they have a long, rich history behind them. The Old Bushmill distillery itself, famously lies just a stone’s throw away from the Giant’s Causeway. The oldest whiskey distillery in Ireland, at least according to them. I assume this is referring to the oldest, officially licensed commercial distillery. I have to believe in Ireland of all places there have to have been a fair share of unofficial distilleries about much earlier on, since these are the sorts of settings from which the whole culture of moonshining and home brew began. The bottle comes cased in a robust tin box, adorned with all sorts of proud facts that they brag of. The case it comes in speaks quality to me, the idea that they went the extra mile to grab drinker’s attention with this pleasantly made tin box, similar to that higher pricetag bottles come in. I have a case of Rémy Martin Grande Champagne V.S.O.P. Cognac in my wine cabinet, it’s case by comparison is still cardboard and is about $30 dearer. Just a little food for thought. The writing on it goes on for a little while about all the little tidbits, like how the whiskey is aged in both Kentucky bourbon barrels and Spanish and Portuguese sherry barrels (how or whether this is both is unsaid), perhaps then, the Dubliner isn’t as unusual a tipple as I had originally thought. That the water made to make the whiskey is drawn from the river Bush that flows over the basalt rock making the water alkaline…harvested by a watermill. Which as the more educated as you may have worked out it is how it came to bear its name, in actuality the whiskey is named after the town in which the distillery lies, but I’ll give you that one. Enough of the romance of the label, let’s actually get down to the actual pleasure of drinking this couple of hundred year old brand.
The bottle itself is tall thin and rectangular in shape. The label, uniform to that of other Irish whiskeys is the traditional dark green, similar to a British Racing Green you might find on a Jag, complemented with a glistening gold trim. The malt inside is a rich, slightly pale, caramel in appearance. The seal, a cork. All promising signs. Upon opening the nose is surprisingly fruity, full of thick notes of berries, fruit, nuts, chocolate, almonds, and the unmistakable base of bourbon. So I pour. The nose unchanged in glass or on ice. The taste is just as expected from the oaking of Kentucky bourbon and sherry barrels. The smoothness of traditional Irish whiskey, affectionately mixed with fruity tastes. On the tongue it tastes of cocktail onions, tomatoes, boiled lollies, and the mellow refreshing foundation of Irish malted barley. The taste of the oak lingers on the tongue. Like some Jameson somebody tossed a handful of crushed raspberries into. The abstract complexity of the palette draws me back to my glass for more time and time again, until all that remains is an ice sphere in a small pool of its own melting clinking side to side round the inside of the tumbler.
In closing: We all have a selection in our minds of what we like to drink and when. The at-the-pub or go-to Irish whiskey will be the ever available Jameson. But this single malt contains plenty of pedigree within it while simultaneously bringing good single malt whiskey into the grasp of the average man. It is a great malt that is certainly unique to itself and you will certainly remember drinking it. I for one have to put the bottle away to stop myself going back for more. Everybody should try it and anyone who is able should keep a bottle close on hand. To date this is the most exquisite Irish whiskey I have drank, but I look forward to more. Cheers.