Bushmills Causeway Collection - 2012 Pomerol, 2002 Vermouth & 2000 Port
For years and years Bushmills enthusiasts bemoaned the lack of anything cask strength escaping the vaults of 'the world's oldest distillery'. We been given glimpses of how good things potentially could be with the 1608 Anniversary release and the Acacia Distillery Exclusive, released at 46% and 47% abv respectively. But even these may have lacked non chill filtration, in the case of the 1608, and both likely contained that dreaded e150a caramel colouring. Unadulterated, full strength Bushmills then was only available from indies such as the SMWS.
Of course like buses, when Bushmills decided to release something cask strength, they didn't just release one. No they opened the flood gates. There were at least 10 official releases in 2020, 12 in 2021 and for 2022 another 10.
Cue much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from Bushmills collectors, especially as many of the releases are region specific, so the prospect of ever completing the collection is extremely unlikely. Especially so if you don't have a bottle of the 2001 Feuillette Cask, of which there were only 168 bottles....so we have the prospect of there ever only being 168 full collections.
As I personally don't bottle chase I couldn't care a jot.
Anyway I managed to snag samples of a couple of the new 2022 releases exclusive to Ireland. The 2012 Pomerol Finish and the 2002 Vermouth Finish. Many thanks to Marc at Fairleys Off Licence in Coleraine for the samples and especially considering their fancy packaging....in unlabeled River Rock water bottles! Who says class is dead?
First up is the Pomerol Finish, or in my mind, second maturation. The whisky spent over six years maturing in both sherry and bourbon casks before vatting and then spending a further four years in the ex-pomerol casks. Cask strength and non-chill filtered there is no mention of being natural colour but we'll give Bushmills the benefit of the doubt here.
Second up we have the Vermouth Finish. The whiskey has spent 18 years in both bourbon and sherry before finding a new home in Vermouth casks from Piedmont in Italy. This second maturation lasted another two years. Cask strength, non chill filtered and I'm pretty sure it's natural colour....c'mon Bushmills just put it on the label and stop the conjecture!
Finally I got a sample of the 2021 released 2000 Port Cask. This spent it's entire life in a ruby port cask and is cask strength, non chill filtered and according to other online sources free of added colour.
2012 Pomerol Finish 54.2% - £100
Nose: Sweet red berries hit first - raspberry coulis, stewed strawberries with balsamic reduction. Vanilla fudge, nougat and some fruit and nut chocolate. time brings melon, pineapple and toasted oak.
Palate: The jamminess of the nose is apparent on the palate with ripe red fruit notes followed by tart apple and zesty citrus. Fiery Jamaican ginger ale, anise and oak spice. A metallic element akin to pencil lead.
Finish: Shortish with a lot of tannins. It's dry, woody and overtly spicy.
Score: 5 out of 10
2002 Vermouth Finish 48.2% - £225
Nose: Quite a soft and restrained nose. Vanilla cream, Turkish delight, lemon and orange peel plus freshly grated ginger. There is a definite herbal edge here - chamomile, hyssop, cardamon and coriander seed. Some woody clove too.
Palate: Quite sweet on arrival - runny honey with orange marmalade and clove rock. Again the vanilla cream shows up followed by warming ground ginger, mixed candied peel and some raisins. A hint of marzipan is there before the herbs kick in - cardamon, chamomile and some rose petals too.
Finish: Medium length with warming spices, mixed peel and herbal tincture.
Score: 7 out of 10
2000 Port Casks 54.1% - between £239 to £275 depending on retailer
Nose: Rich, sweet and woody. A humidor with raspberry, dried strawberries, raisins, and dried prunes. Toasted almonds, sweet rice pudding with baking spices. A little polish. Milk chocolate chunks and candied peels.
Palate: Jammy red fruit upfront followed by cocoa powder and caramel. Toffee apples, Seville orange marmalade and stewed plums. There's a hint of cigar box along with cinnamon and allspice with a little anise too. Mild heat mid palate before returning to butter cream and toasted nuts.
Finish: Quite long with syrupy stewed red fruit. Bitter dark chocolate & some coffee grounds temper the sweetness.
Score: 8 out of 10
Overall: So a bit of a mixed bag. Sadly for me the Pomerol cask just doesn't work and to be honest I think for my palate ex-red wine casks tend not to work with whiskey terribly well. I think the last one that really stood out was the Gordon & MacPhail Tormore Cote Rotie finish. Anyway, on this particular release I'd suggest you save your £100 and spend it elsewhere.
Things pick up well with the Vermouth Cask. It's a very herbal driven dram but it's pretty well balanced between the nose and palate and at least provides enough interest that you want to go back and explore it again. Although I release that at £225 it ain't cheap and also may not be to everyone's taste.
The pick of the bunch was the jammy, syrupy Port Casks release. A long, lingering stewed fruit bomb and for the money I think it'd be hard to argue against especially if you can snag it at the lower end of the pricing spectrum.
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