The Causeway Collection is an award-winning range of whiskeys.The Causeway Collection is an award-winning range of whiskeys.
The Causeway Collection is an award-winning range of whiskeys.

Historic local distillery setting the global pace with rare Irish whiskeys

A DRIVING force in the current renaissance of Irish whiskey, Bushmills has recently released an extraordinary series of rare whiskeys which are setting the County Antrim distillery apart in a dynamic global industry.

Bushmills in County Antrim, the world’s oldest licensed distillery, is setting the pace in the launch of rare Irish Whiskeys. SAM BUTLER looks at the latest releases.

The releases have increased its international profile as a leader in whiskey exports.

The company last year completed a £37 million distillery in the town that has enabled it to increase output of premium single malt whiskeys from its huge warehouse of casks sourced from across the world and filled over many decades. In 2023, it sold a record one million cases of whiskey worldwide.

The latest is a rare, limited-edition 23-year-old Madeira cask. This distinguished new addition to the brand’s elusive and iconic Causeway Collection has been exclusively matured in Madeira fortified wine oak casks for 23 years, and hosts a cask strength ABV of 53.8%.

This stunning whiskey will initially be available only from Avolta’s World Duty-Free stores at Heathrow Airport from this week, before global release one month later across Avolta travel retail outlets worldwide.

David de Miguel, Avolta’s Global Head of Liquor, expressed his enthusiasm about the new collaboration with Bushmills: "We are thrilled to offer passengers visiting our World Duty Free stores at Heathrow Airport, this month-long exclusivity of the limited-edition Bushmills 23-year-old Madeira Cask. Bushmills' Causeway Collection consistently generates a great deal of excitement among our customers, so we are eagerly anticipating the unveiling of this new expression.”

Master blender Alex Thomas says Bushmills’ 400 year-long thirst for the uncommon provides the inspiration behind for its coveted Causeway Collection. “These releases feature some of the rarest cask single malt cask finishes in the world,” Alex says.

The 23-year-old Madeira Cask – the collection’s latest jewel, aged exclusively in first fill Madeira oak casks – is no exception. Filled on June 30, 2000, it is a single malt whiskey of unparalleled depth and complexity.

Alex continues: “I wanted to share something truly unique for our partners at Avolta. I chose this single malt aged exclusively in Madeira casks for its distinct profile, bursting with summer fruits, sweet peach and roasted nuts.”

She explains the time-honoured expertise of generations of Bushmills whiskey-makers, past and present, that have influenced this latest expression: “Each decision – from the cask selection and seasoning process, to the bottling and packaging – is testament to our restless pursuit of perfection and determination to delight consumers with ground-breaking and prestigious single malt whiskeys.

"Having spent 23 years maturing in Madeira casks alone, I’m confident this one will be hugely popular … its luscious sweetness is basically summer in a glass!”

Other recent releases in the Bushmills family include a 14-year-old single malt, benefitting from up to 12 months in Malaga casks. The whiskey is described as “exuding honey and orange peel on the nose, with a palate of tropical fruit, soft oak and sweet caramel. A vanilla infused finish lingers long”.

A 15-year-old single malt from Bourbon barrels and finished in Cognac casks has also won acclaim for quality and innovation.

Alex continues: “We’ve approached this 15-year-old in a really experimental way, using whiskey aged only in bourbon barrels to give a wonderful vanilla sweetness. Then we’ve layered on complex fruity notes from the finest oak casks sourced from the ancient forests of central France and used to age rare cognac by a small family-run cognac maker.”

She continues: “For several years the cognac soaks deep into the fine-grain of these luxurious casks before they’re ready to be emptied and sent to us at the Old Bushmills Distillery. It’s a lavish and really exciting process!”

A unique 23-year-old single malt was earlier created exclusively for famous Belfast whiskey shop The Friend at Hand. A homage to Hill Street – once home to the Bushmills headquarters, and where The Friend at Hand today stands – this exclusive bottling celebrates the rich history of one of Belfast’s most iconic streets.

Long lauded for its shipbuilding and linen-weaving past, the lesser-told story of Belfast’s whiskey history is a spirited tale, brought to life in this new release. Bonded warehouses once lined Hill Street, and Bushmills barrels would have rolled down its now iconic cobbles to ships docked on the Farset River to be transported to destinations around the globe.

Over 135 years on, the Bushmills Hill Street Edition will make history as the oldest ever Bushmills expression to be released in Europe. Epitomising Bushmills’ passion for ‘unrushed perfection’, this is an exceptional prestige single malt. Distilled in 1986 and recasked in a sherry hogshead cask in March 2001, this rare bottling honours a captivating story of time-honoured craft and collaboration.

Alex explains: “In every bottle of Bushmills we honour our past and the immense passion and patience required to craft the world’s most exclusive single malts. It is my privilege to bring this exceptional whiskey back to Belfast, to the site of Bushmills’ former HQ on Hill Street, in what is a milestone moment for the brand.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime whiskey,” Alex adds.

Now owned by Mexico’s leading distiller Jose Cuervo, Bushmills is distributed internationally by New York’s Proximo, a global innovator of quality spirits.

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