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This special treat happens to be the very first Bushmills bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society exclusively for the Canadian marketplace (it's not even on the SMWS UK site). Distilled on May 22 2002, this went into a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel, yielding 216 bottles after 15 years. It's been open for about a month or so.
The colour is light gold. On the nose there is very light honey and malt notes, with a hint of cotton candy. Canned diced pineapple. Milk chocolate. Some menthol. Slightly floral. You know that crystallized sugar you get on top of a McDonald's apple pie? I get a bit of that. With a drop of water you get a lemony Halls note. Overall it's fairly quiet, almost soothing.
Some heat on the palate, with candied ginger, chili pepper, lemon pith and throat lozenge (also lemony). Slightly oily mouthfeel. Hints of vanilla and caramel. Rather sweet. Definitely getting the DNA of the Bushmills 10 here. Hotter, oilier and more lemony with a drop of water (not really an improvement here, unfortunately). Unusual combination of heat, sharp citrus and a dry sweet core. Very interesting but a bit too contrasting.
The finish is long and warming with chili spice, lemon curd and toasted oak; grassy at the very death. It's that grassiness that could tip you off that this is a Bushmills malt (that, and the "Region: N. Ireland" on the label). This a fascinating and complex whiskey, though a touch too sweet for me. If you like your Irish a bit more on the sweet side, you might really love this. I think there are still bottles left in Canada (BC and Alberta only).