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My last haul from Scotch Whisky Auctions included quite a few minis, including a bunch of Bushmills (whose malts I quite admire). So we'll have some fun comparing them to the current bottlings. There are two Black Bush minis, both much older than the current bottling: one at 40% ABV, the other at 43 (the current Black Bush is actually at 40). Without any dates, and going solely by the design, I'm guessing that this 40% mini I'm reviewing here is older than the 43% mini (which I'll review next).
For those who don't know, Black Bush is slightly more premium than their standard Original blend. A high percentage of the malt that goes into Black Bush is matured in Oloroso sherry casks, and as with all their blends, the grain is imported from Midleton. I will go on the record as saying I quite like the current bottling; let's see how these old minis compare.
The colour is a light-to-medium gold (notably lighter than the current bottling). On the nose we have sweet corn, banana bread and light peat. Trace amounts of papaya and Irish malt. There's not much going on here at all. Seems very young and astringent, maybe with a high grain component? I'm not getting much oak, nor much sherry cask influence. Even more astringent with water. Going by memory, this is even lighter and younger than the standard Bushmills Original bottling.
On the palate there is quite a bit of malt, but again, it seems young. Very fruity with more banana and papaya, plus nectarines and lemon curd. Reminds me of their 10 year old single malt, with lots of barley sugar. Avoid water - it just thins out the palate (and doesn't do the nose any favours). Quite tasty but not very complex.
The finish is soft with very light spices and an indeterminate sweetness. This is very disappointing. It seems to be extremely young, and out of balance (the nose seems grainier while the palate seems maltier). Compared to the current bottling, there is no comparison: on all fronts, today's Black Bush is richer, deeper and fruitier. This is the rare case where the current bottling is an improvement on the older bottling. But what if you upped the ABV by 3%? Let's see...