Big news from the Irish whiskey world: Bushmills has opened its second site, the Causeway Distillery, and treated us to two new whiskeys to celebrate, the 25 Year Old and the 30 Year Old. We hopped over the Irish sea to check it all out.
The newest distillery from the world’s oldest licensed distillery – that’s pretty cool, isn’t it? Sat just a stone’s throw from the Old Bushmills Distillery, the new Causeway Distillery (taking its name from the nearby Giant’s Causeway) is an impressive feat indeed, standing dramatically tall and incredibly shiny without being overly imposing. I think it’s the sheer number of windows that prevent it from becoming too intimidating.
In 2022 Bushmills surpassed one million case sales for the first time in its history, but of course plans for the Causeway Distillery began long before then. Around 20 years ago, in fact. “If you go back to the day when I started 21 years ago, there was a 20-year plan made for the whole 65-acre site – where we were going to build warehouses and where we were going to build the new distillery,” master distiller Colum Egan tells me. The planned site for the new distillery held over the two decades, and is exactly where the Causeway distillery sits now.
Bushmills Causeway Distillery
Opening a £37 million site is certainly one way to celebrate 415 years of whiskey heritage, and is part of owner Proximo’s £60 million investment in its Irish single malt distilling and ageing facility at Bushmills over the past five years.
“Before we decided to build the new distillery we were actually running out of warehouse space, so we had to double the size of the site and started building warehouses,” Egan tells me. They now have 460,000 barrels maturing.
There are some fun facts to accompany the new distillery – it’s 39,000 sq ft, and has managed to reduce energy usage by 30% while boosting material consumption efficiency by up to 10%, taking Bushmills’ production capacity from five million litres of alcohol per annum to 11 million litres. While the spirit stills are the same (7,000-litre charge) the wash stills are bigger in the new Causeway distillery, but the dimensions and profile remain the same, just scaled up. The liquid produced here will be indistinguishable from that of Old Bushmills.
But it’s more than hard numbers. You can now stand in the middle of the Causeway distillery and oversee every step of the whisky-making process, something which is seldom seen in older distilleries which have been altered and built around over the years like Old Bushmills. Sustainability is a big part of the new Causeway Distillery, which will be run entirely on electricity from green sources, spent barley goes to local farms within five hours to use as animal feed, all while offsetting 12,500 tonnes of carbon emissions by planting 80,000 trees. With time, the team are hoping to make the equipment boosting the Causeway site’s efficiency small enough to put into the old distillery.
The new Bushmills 25 & 30 Year Old
Now it wouldn’t be a distillery opening without some whiskey, would it? Bushmills has pulled out all the stops for the occasion, releasing two new core additions to the range: the 25 Year Old and the 30 Year Old*. The fact that Bushmills has the stock to make these ongoing releases is quite the flex. “It’s amazing to think that we have enough stock to put those into the core range for the foreseeable years,” says master blender Alex Thomas, who has been at Bushmills for 19 years. “Not many distilleries can hold that title that they were able to lay down whisky 30 years ago and wait until now.”
These whiskeys take the meaning of a finishing period to a new level – it’s more of a second maturation. The 25 Year Old spends its first four years in bourbon and sherry casks before slumbering the next 21 years in a Port cask. The casks are constructed specially for Bushmills, so the team have complete control over the seasoning and flavour profile. “For me it just showcases Bushmills,” Thomas says as we taste it together. “The house style is there, but it has really opened up to all the flavours from the cask.”
As for the 30 Year Old, this is the oldest expression in the brand’s core collection to date. It’s initially matured in the bourbon and sherry combo for 14 years before another 16 years in Pedro Ximénez casks. “Five years is the age difference, which is nothing in the grand scheme of whisky, but the cask profile is phenomenal,” Thomas muses. “For someone who is not a patient person normally, whisky deserves the time!” Both clocking in at 46% ABV, she welcomes the addition of a drop or two of water.
It’s an exciting new beginning for this established brand. “The lead times are phenomenal on whisky, we’re planning 40 years ahead,” Egan tells me. On launch day at the distillery itself, the excitement – and relief – is palpable. Thomas sums up everything that the new distillery and whiskeys represent: “We can carry on the traditions of the past, but we can set it up for the future.”
Master of Malt tastes Bushmills 25 Year Old
Nose: Warming and decadent, with almost-overdone caramelised nuts, honeycomb, and an unmistakable note of dark gingerbread. Then the juicy fruit comes in, with syrupy cherries and plum skin.
Palate: The nuts are dry and toasted now, with bittersweet dark chocolate tempered by sweeter notes of candied ginger, treacle, and blackberry jam.
Finish: Old oak and dark tobacco linger while that gingerbread returns.
Master of Malt tastes Bushmills 30 Year Old
Nose: Fruity and buttery, with decadent pain au raisin leading into prunes, thick molasses, and something like Turkish delight. A spicy, oaky backbone supports it all.
Palate: The PX influence comes in waves with bundles of dried fruit sweetness, with orange curd, hazelnut frangipane, and a smidge of apricot yogurt too.
Finish: Cherries in syrup and black pepper stay on and on… and on.
*Both Bushmills 25 Year Old and Bushmills 30 Year Old will be landing at Master of Malt very soon. Watch this space!