Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Bushmills. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
In honor of the sixth and final season of TV series Peaky Blinders, Bushmills released a special Irish whiskey crafted in the style that would have graced pubs during its era and dubbed it Bushmills Prohibition Recipe Irish Whiskey. If you’re not familiar with the BBC/Netflix crime drama, it’s worth noting that it’s set in Birmingham, England, between the World Wars. The title refers to the criminal gang led by the Shelby family, of Irish and Romani descent. The final season aired on June 10th, shortly after the release of the reviewed whiskey. You can watch all six seasons on Netflix in the USA.
If you’re not familiar with Ireland’s Old Bushmills Distillery, know that it was founded in 1608 and is considered the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. The name Bushmills comes from the River Bush, the source for the water, and from the mills in the area that process the barley. They pride themselves on only using 100% malted barley for their mash. This is notable among Irish distillers. The use of alternative grains such as corn became widespread beginning in the 1850s in Ireland. At the time, the Crown instituted a tax increase on barley that was aimed at distillers. Rather than change their recipe to save money, Bushmills stood by their then 250-year heritage and shouldered the increased cost. For a deep dive into their core lineup, I suggest my colleague’s recent round up review of their core releases. In 2015, Casa Cuervo purchased Bushmills, which, as the name suggests, is also the home of Jose Cuervo.
So why craft a tie-in Irish whiskey for a TV show set in Birmingham? Aside from family’s Irish heritage, the gang’s leader, Tommy Shelby, is frequently pictured enjoying a glass or two of Irish whiskey, including Bushmills, which would have been a common offering at the time. This tipple is served at the pub he acquires, the Garrison. With a throwback design of blue-tinted glass and an exposed cork stopper, the Bushmills Prohibition Recipe Irish Whiskey bottle would blend in neatly on set.
To recreate the 1910s-era style whiskey, the distillery crafted Bushmills Prohibition Recipe Irish Whiskey according to Prohibition-era methodologies: non-chill filtered, bottled at barrel proof (92), and aged in ex-bourbon barrels. The whiskey is a blend of three-, four-, and five-year-old whiskies. Setting aside one’s opinion on TV show tie in merch, this is a fun way to experience Bushmills crafted the way it was 100 years ago without dropping serious coin at auctions. Visit Bushmills’ website dedicated to this release for recipes, which are riffs on Prohibition-era cocktails.
Tasting Notes: Bushmills Prohibition Recipe Irish Whiskey
Vital Stats: Aged a minimum of three years in ex-bourbon barrels, 46% ABV, mash bill: 100% malted barley, SRP $29.99/ 750ml bottle.
Appearance: This is pale yellow with a faint golden undertone.
Nose: There is a pronounced medley of tropical fruit on the nose alongside notes of overripe pear, yellow plum, sweet corn, and caramel sauce. This is very fruity and pungent. Aeration helps bring forth notes of dried berries and spice with a faintly juniper quality. Notes of ripe, yellow bananas dominate, almost verging on banana fruit candy.
Palate: In the mouth, the whiskey is sweetly fruity, with cloying notes of ripe bananas and whole grain bread. The texture is soft and smooth with a gentle pepperiness. I would not guess this was 46% ABV; it reads far lower. There are, as expected, heavy banana notes on the fruity finish as the whiskey gently evaporated in the back of the mouth. This is smooth and easy drinking.
Punchy and flavorful, this is not what I was expecting from an Irish whiskey. It’s certainly smooth and easy drinking, despite the high ABV. The American oak showed through with tropical fruit aromas and pungent notes of banana. It avoids being too saccharine or artificial, but is somewhat simple.
I can see this appealing to fans of fruity bourbon and those interested in a smoother drink or an impactful mixer. I think it’s certainly worth the money, if only to experience what Bushmills states was the style available 100 years ago.
User Review2.33 (3 votes)
Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...