“Every bottle of BUSHMILLS begins life with malted barley. we use un-peated malted barley, which means it’s dried with hot air rather than over a peat fire. And that’s why our whiskey is free from the smokey flavour you sometimes find in other whiskies.
We grind the grains to a coarse flour or ‘grist’, to use the distiller’s word. That’s then mixed with hot water in a large mixing vessel, or a mash tun, to produce a sweet liquid called ‘wort’. The sugars in the wort are essential in obtaining alcohol in the next stage.”
“Yeast is added to the sweet, malty liquid, or wort, which triggers alcoholic fermentation. That’s when the wort’s sugars turn into alcohol.
Fermentation takes place in washbacks – large fermentation vessels, and produces an alcoholic liquid similar to malty ale, called ‘wash’, with a strength of around 8% alcohol by volume.”
“This is where we obtain our first spirit or as our master distiller, Colum, calls it, ‘baby Bushmills’. It’s one of the most delicate operations in the process: bringing the wash to the boil to separate alcohol and other flavours from water. Traditionally, this happens in copper pot stills whose size and shape influence the character of the whiskey-to-be.
We have ten relatively small stills with tall, slender necks in which we triple distil Bushmills – that’s typical of irish whiskey. This combination produces a lighter, smoother type of spirit. But no matter how skilled, a distiller can never make whiskey in the still-house alone. This new-make spirit needs to mature in oak casks for at least three years.”
“Maturation in oak casks is critical to the Bushmills taste. A poor cask will turn a good spirit into a mediocre whiskey. So we mature our whiskey as carefully as we distill it.
That means selecting the best American oak barrels, Spanish sherry casks, even former port, Madeira or rum barrels.
We still have to ensure that whenever someone opens a bottle of Bushmills it tastes exactly as they would expect. We need to maintain a consistent flavour.”
“Helen and her blending team create the recipe for each of our whiskies. That means they have to check quality throughout production, which even includes paying visits to spain and portugal to select the casks.
The blending stage involves combining different casks of whiskey to find consistent flavour. Different casks of malt whiskey are blended to find the right flavour, while malt and grain spirits are mixed for a blended whiskey.
At Bushmills, we make both blends and malts, which is pretty unusual in the world of whiskey, but you might have gathered by now that Bushmills is no ordinary distillery.”
All stages of the whiskey-making process are carried out at the Old Bushmills Distillery.
We’re one of the few ‘grain to glass’ distilleries in the world. In fact, we’re one of only a handful in the world. But that ensures unique quality control and attention to the finest detail in every drop. And of course, in turn, helps ensure Bushmills whiskies are consistently one of the best in the world.”