In August 2022 Bushmills presented two new expressions in the Bushmills Causeway Collection. Launched in 2020, this series contains uncommon cask finishes. Each release is exclusive to a different market. We’re trying a 2022 vintage finished in vermouth casks. Bushmills claims it is the first ever Irish single malt to be treated this way. In fact I don’t recall having tried this cask type myself until now.
The Bushmills Vermouth Casks matured in bourbon and sherry casks for 18 years. In the last two years it was transferred to a vermouth cask sourced from Piemonte in Italy.
Now what to expect from a vermouth cask? As you know, vermouth is a fortified wine flavoured with botanicals. Italy, Spain and France have a vermouth tradition tracing back several centuries. See my article about the sherry vermouth revival for instance.
Bushmills 2002 Vermouth Casks (48,2%, OB ‘Causeway Collection’ 2022, Ireland exclusive)
Nose: starts quite nutty and slightly musty, with nutmeg and herbal notes. Then it becomes brighter and fruitier, showing orange peels, peaches, juicy plums and baked apple. Gradually it settles down on the classic Bushmills character, fruity with a hint of vanilla and just a mild herbal side.
Mouth: herbal honey, more vanilla. Then more orange peels, stewed fruits and darker berries. Herbs continue to grow, with added hints of clove and mild pepper as well. Also hints of hazelnut. The expected bitterness of a vermouth is well balanced. Some tangerine and apricot comes out in the end.
Finish: quite long, with the same mix of herbal notes, spice and slightly darker fruits than your typical Bushmills.
This starts from the classic Bushmills profile and adds a balanced amount of spice and mildly bitter herbs. Skilfully dosed, I’d say, although some will argue it’s a bit too cautious to really show off the vermouth influence. Overall a nice whiskey, albeit with a heavy price tag. Exclusive to Eire, but also available from Master of Malt for instance.