Whisky and Words Number 109: Bushmills Prohibition Recipe (vs. Bushmills White Label)

Bushmills was one of my first reviews, number 3 to be exact, back in 2015. Given my journey since then, I’m re-tasting it as I compare to the Prohibition Blend that landed in my local bottle shop.

Another TV tie-in branding here.

The Prohibition Blend has a lot going on visually as you can see by the photo at right. There are callbacks to the ‘Shelby’ company, a tie-in to The Peaky Blinders TV series. Their star, Cillian Murphy features on the Bushmills landing page for the whisky. There is a quote on the back of the bottle from a Shelby (who is fictional). We have reached a level of marketing tomfoolery seldom seen. On the side of reality, we see this is non-chill-filtered and bottled at 92 proof (46% ABV), aged for a minimum of 3 years (which is required by Irish law anyway) in ex-bourbon barrels. Also, it’s got a cork stopper; very 1920s.

Let’s see how it stacks against good old White Label Bushmills, which differs by having some Oloroso sherry casks in the blend. As you can see from the photo below, the Prohibition version is a bit darker, but that does not mean much, as Irish can be colored.

White label has a serviceable if not outstanding nose. When you approach the glass you can smell the sherry, though it is subtle. Deeper in you get grassy and green-watermelon aromas. There is no peat funk at all, no smoke, no mineral notes.  I’ve got to say the Prohibition Recipe has little nose at all. No sherry of course, and you have to get right into the Glencairn to catch a whiff of the signature Bushmills green grass. It’s disappointing.

Color comparo: Prohibition on the left, White Label on right.

How about a taste. The White Label has a smooth Lyle’s Golden Syrup vibe going which is moderated by well-balanced tannins, which themselves are accompanied by the pleasant grassy Bushmills aroma, vanilla and a light touch of cinnamon. I still get a touch of citrus though I have to say my earlier review of ‘rose’ in the aroma does not hold up. The Prohibition version, being a bit stronger, is lighter on the sweet (more banana than Lyle’s) and heavier on the tannins, with about the same amount of cinnamon. Altogether not as balanced, less complex and more forward. More muscular, if you will.

Bushmills Prohibition Recipe Irish Whisky,  46% ABV

Nose: Oak, malt, green grass.
Palate: Vanilla, banana, green peppers. Robust bitters to balance.
Finish: Moderate but unspectacular, slightly spicy tannins overlying some medium honey sweetness. A little harsh.

Bottom Line: I forget what I paid for the Prohibition Recipe and it’s already off the Oregon OLCC site. On BevMo, the two whiskies are within a buck of each other, about $29. I think the Prohibition Recipe, being more robust, would be good for mixing. Neat, I don’t find enough complexity to offset the slight harshness. That’s not the higher alcohol percentage, IMO. I have had smoother whiskies with higher ABVs. I’ll stick with White Label.

More funky jive on the back.

Author: H.W. MacNaughton

Technologist and communicator. Into technology, jazz, Formula One, sci-fi and any good writing about real stuff.

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