Because nothing goes better with life than Irish Whiskey, we intended to ask Bushmills Master Distiller Colum Egan about the nuances of his fine Gaelic spirit. Unfortunately, we got carried away and also asked him about tiny rappers and the tippling habits of beloved saints.
We'll start off easy, before we get very, very difficult: What's the difference between Irish Whiskey and Scotch? Irish Whiskey is smooth, while Scotch typically has more of a smoky taste. Irish Whiskey is great if you've never tasted whiskey, very smooth when it goes down, whereas Scotch takes a little more getting used to.
Are there set rules for what constitutes whiskey? Whiskey must be made from a type of cereal, like barley. Bushmills is actually the only Irish whiskey made with 100 percent malted barley giving it a smooth, full flavor. Irish whiskey must also be made in Ireland, and for at least three years put in an oak barrel that's at most 700 liters. If you don't follow those rules you can't call it Irish Whiskey -- you have to call it a spirit or a liqueur or something like that.
Does whiskey ever go bad in the bottle? Or if not bad, then 'less good'? It's actually very stable as long as you have the cap screwed on, 'cause at 80 proof there's nothing else that can live in there. But because whiskey demands to be shared with friends, as soon as you open that cap it's not gonna last you long.
Black Bush was once called Old Bushmills Special Old Liqueur Whiskey. Why would you ever change a catchy name like that? The EC came in and said it couldn't be called "liqueur" -- if it's whiskey, you've got to call it whiskey. So the locals always had a black label for it, and the Original always had a white label, and would ask for a Black Bush or a White Bush.
Do people titter uncontrollably when you say things like black bush and white bush? They do. I don't know why. A bush is a bush. You know, like that thing that grows in the field.
If you were to align yourself with another "Bush", would it be a hardcore Bush, like Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys, who is 4'2" and once shot himself in the eye, or a more dignified Bush, like Bushwood Country Club, from Caddyshack? Bushmills is like the Irish people: we want to have a laugh, listen to music, have a bit of dance, and pull each others' leg, so it's definitely more on Caddyshack side of things. This Bushwick Bill would be a cute little stand for a glass of whiskey though. Four-foot-two is just perfect.
If Bushmills had been around in the time of St. Patrick would he have taken it neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail involving Irish cream or a hazelnut liquor? I think St. Patrick would've done whatever he wanted with Bushmills, because he was a wild man, a crazy dude, and it was always party time.
That's outstanding. Are there any other important areas we've missed? Are there any areas you've hit? Colum now requests that you raise an imaginary (or not-imaginary) glass and join him in a traditional toast to his lovely bride: "To our wives and girlfriends, may they never meet". Colum also requests that you go to Bushmills.com, and find out more about The Bush. Ha ha. Get it? It grows in a field.
Please drink Bushmills responsibility. Remember, always designate a driver.