Bushmills vs Bushmills Red Bush

Bushmills vs Bushmills Red Bush

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Luke is a Level I Certified Whiskey Specialist with a passion for exploring and unearthing the best whiskeys around. Luke has a preference for Rye whiskeys but has tasted over 250 different whiskeys to date varying from bourbons to scotches. He continues to expand upon his whiskey knowledge by tasting dozens of bottles monthly and reviewing them here on Barrel and Brew as he pursues his Masters of Whiskey certification.

Today we’re taking a look at the original Bushmills vs Bushmills Red Bush – their bourbon barrel aged expression. I’m excited to give Red Bush a try because I tend to really like Bushmills Original.

Evan Williams BiB, Jim Beam Black, and Johnnie Walker Black are just a couple examples of different expressions of classic whiskeys that are very very good. I’m going to find out if Bushmills Red Bush is better than the original.

See how Bushmills compares to Jameson!

Bushmills Review

Bushmills History

Bushmills is known as “The Worlds Oldest Licensed Distillery”. While the company wasn’t officially formed until 1784 by Hugh Anderson, a man was given a license to distill whiskey back in 1608 along the River Bush.

With the river providing a water source and mills to grind the barley, Bushmills was born.

Bushmills ran into some troubles in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s – as did nearly every Irish distillery. A fire destroyed the distillery in 1885, and a couple decades later, the Irish War of Independence and American Prohibition caused a lot of issues. Bushmills was able to persevere.

Present day, they are owned by Proximon Spirits/Becle SAB de/Cuervo.

Bushmills Original vs Red Bush Overview

OriginalRed Bush
SpiritBlended Irish WhiskeyBlended Irish Whiskey
Owned ByProximo Spirits/Becle SAB de/CuervoProximo Spirits/Becle SAB de/Cuervo
Distilled ByOld Bushmills DistilleryOld Bushmills Distillery
Aged5 years, ex-sherry & ex-bourbon casks 4 Years, new bourbon casks
ABV40%, 80 Proof40%, 80 Proof
MashbillBlend of single malt and grain whiskeyBlend of single malt and grain whiskey

Similarities & Differences

As you can see, there aren’t too many differences between these two whiskeys. In fact, there’s really only one point of differentiation – aging – which can have a huge impact on a whiskey.

Both of these are NAS, meaning they are at least 3 years old; however, Bushmills’ website states 5 years for the original and only 4 for Red Bush. Why then, is Bushmills Red Bush more expensive? The answer is in the casks.

Bourbon has to be aged in new charred oak. Once the cask has been used, it can no longer be used to age bourbon, so bourbon distillers sell off those casks for cheap – usually to Irish & Scotch distillers. A new charred oak cask is going to be more expensive than a used one.

A new charred oak cask is going to impart stronger flavors than a used one, so 4 years in a new cask should have a larger impact than 5 years in a used one.

Lastly, while there is a slight difference in price, a $2-3 increase isn’t substantial when it comes to Bushmills Original vs Bushmills Red Bush.

Tasting Notes

Alright, now that we’ve covered the basics it’s time to see how much of a difference the aging process plays. Let’s pour a couple drams and find out.

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Original Flavor Profile

Nose: Smells a little thin and light. Honey and pear come of most prominent. There’s a light lemon and floral scent with some malt.

Palate: A little thin on the palate, but that’s to be expected. It’s pretty basic with the nose transferring over. Honey, pear, and malt which adds a bit of chocolate. A touch of pepper, but very little spice.

Finish: A short finish with just a touch of that pepper sticking around with some dry oak and pear.

Red Bush Flavor Profile

Nose: Light as well, but a little more pungent. There’s certainly a stronger oak scent, with a bit of cinnamon spice. Faint hints of some darker fruits show up.

Palate: A similar viscosity. Stronger flavors of oak and cinnamon spice overshadow the fruits, but again, there’s a touch of darker fruits in there. Stronger flavors here, but certainly a sharper flavor.

Finish: The finish is longer here with burnt/charred oak, cinnamon, and vanilla.

Which is Better? Bushmills Original vs Bushmills Red Bush

Bushmills vs Red Bush

Whenever anyone is talking about which whiskey is better, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a very subjective matter.

With that being said, I much prefer the Original to Red Bush.

Bushmills Original is exactly what you’d expect out of a mass produced whiskey that’s $20. It’s a little thin and not very rich, but it’s light, inoffensive, and easy to drink. And that’s exactly why it’s one of the best selling Irish whiskeys in the world.

Bushmills Red Bush definitely has more going on. You can taste the difference between being aged in used barrels vs newly charred oak. However, if I’m going to drink a whiskey with some character, I want it to be rich, thick, and oily. Red Bush brings more flavor, but I don’t find it to be quality flavor. The charred oak and cinnamon taste more like fireball – a spicy, Big Red kind of cinnamon.

Generally speaking, more so a rule for me… When we’re talking $20 bottles of whiskey, the less I taste, the better. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but if I’m looking for a whiskey to sit down with and sip and enjoy, I’m going to opt for something nicer than Bushmills Red Bush – and it doesn’t have to be much more expensive either. Fistful of Bourbon is just one example of a $25 bottle of bourbon with loads of flavor – and I LOVE it.

Fistful of Bourbon Review

Fistful of Bourbon Review

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William Grant & Sons has been a prominent producer of Scotch and Irish Whiskey for over a century. Their notable brands include Balvenie, Grant’s, Glenfiddich, Monkey Shoulder, Tullamore Dew, Hendrick’s Gin, and Sailor Jerry. Well, recently they’ve moved into the bourbon market with Fistful of Bourbon. I have written a couple reviews…


When it comes to the original Bushmills vs Bushmills Red Bush, the Original comes out on top for me specifically because the flavors are lighter making it more rounded. The new charred oak cask overpowers some of the flavors from the spirit making Red Bush a little more harsh and sharp.

If you’re trying to stick within Bushmills but want something nicer than their original whiskey, opt for Black Bush. It maintains the more well rounded character, but has more going on from being aged 8 years. After that, I’d recommend their 10 or 12 Year Single Malt. And after that… Well, you’ll be looking at whiskey priced over $100.

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