One thing that the Irish are well known for is their whiskey, and the two brands that are the most famous for making Irish whiskey are Bushmills and Jameson. But which one is the best? Is there all that much of a difference? If so, what are the differences?
These are all the things that we will be discovering in order to figure out which whiskey is best, or at least which one is going to be the best for you.
What Is Whiskey?
Whiskey originated in the highlands of Scotland, hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Its original name, ‘uisge beatha’ is Gaelic for ‘water of life’. It is an amber-colored spirit derived from fermented grain, typically barley, rye, or wheat.
The drink is usually aged in a wooden barrel and contains a minimum of 40% alcohol by volume (ABV). There are loads of different whiskey types, distinguished by their place of origin, types of grain, blending process, or aging process.
Most of these types differ slightly in specific flavor, the majority of them can be described as warm, toasty, and reminiscent of caramel.
What Distinguishes Irish Whiskey?
The most notable thing about Irish whiskey is that it has to have been distilled, aged, and bottled in Ireland in order to qualify. The spirit must be created using malt, cereal grain, and barely and then abed in a wooden cask for at least 3 years.
Irish whiskey typically has a more muted and malt character, which is more distinctive when the spirit is aged in a less conventional vessel like sherry or rum casks.
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Bushmills Whiskey is based in Northern Ireland and owned by Casa Cuervo.
Although the company was originally formed in 1784, the label on the bottle uses the date 1608, which was the year that Bushmills was given a royal license was granted that allowed the landowner to legally distill whiskey in the area.
Although there was a fire in 1885, since then the company has been in continuous operation ever since it was rebuilt.
Currently, Bushmills has a whiskey range that includes 8 different whiskeys. These go from the Bushmills original blend, which is a grain whiskey that is matured in American oak casks to a 21-year single malt, which is made in a limited supply.
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Jameson Whiskey on the other hand is distilled, aged, and bottled in County Cork, though it was originally created in Dublin. Either way, this whiskey has always been produced in the Republic of Ireland.
This whiskey is by far the most popular, best-selling Irish Whiskey in the world, and has been sold internationally since the early 19th century, and is currently available to buy in over 130 countries.
Jameson is produced from a blend of grain whiskey and single pot still whiskey, which is a mixture of malted and unmalted Irish barley. All of the ingredients are sourced from within a fifty-mile radius around the distillery in Cork.
Bushmills vs Jameson – Side By Side
So what is the real difference between the two? And is the difference significant enough to really make a difference when it comes to buying it? The simple answer is yes, there is a difference, and yes, you will probably have a favorite.
In order to get a good idea of which one you’re going to prefer, we will list the differences here.
First, and most important, is the flavor.
We can discuss the aging process and mix of grains until the cows come home, but when it comes to knowing whether you should actually buy one product over the other, then you mostly just need to know what it’s going to taste like.
Whether being used as a mixer spirit, or taken neat, these two drinks come with their own unique flavors. Jameson comes with a mellow flavor with hints of spice and floral scents.
On the other hand, Bushmills has a vanilla-like undertone with a pleasantly sharp and tangy floral flavor. Jameson’s whiskey is notably more smokey than its competitor whilst also feeling light and delicate. Bushmills is certainly more fruity, with a hint of herbaceous and cherry.
If you’re wanting something delicate with a smokey whiskey finish then you’ll want to have Jameson. If you’d prefer something softer with a herbal and fruity overtone, then Bushmills should be your choice.
As mentioned previously, Bushmills is created in Northern Ireland, whereas Jameson is produced in Ireland proper.
This means that Jameson hails from an area heavily populated and associated with people from the Catholic religion, whereas Bushmills originates in Protestant-rich Northern Ireland.
A lot of people refer to Bushmills as Protestant whiskey, and therefore some Irish people refuse to drink it. If this means anything to you then this should help you make the choice between the two.
Bushmills is definitely the older and more refined of the two products, considering the fact that although the company wasn’t formed until 1784, it was officially and royally licensed back in 1608, whereas Jameson was founded in 1780 by a Scottish man named John Jameson.
The color of the two spirits is also pretty similar, and although I can’t imagine a reason why the color would make that much of a difference to someone trying to decide which one of the liquors to buy, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to know about them.
So! The color of Jameson is a deep copper, with a golden hue. Bushmills 10% on the other hand is slightly lighter, with more of a medium-yellow hue, looking more like a blonde ale than a whiskey.
It’s important to note that the color of the whiskey will completely depend on how long the whiskey has been matured. For example, a Bushmills that has been aged for 10 years will be a pale yellow, however, the 21-year aging process results in a far richer amber color.
If the flavor isn’t the most important, then I bet that the ABv will be. The alcohol percentage by volume tells you how potently alcoholic the drink is going to be, which will affect how drunk you can get from each glass.
Almost all of Jameson’s whiskeys have a 40% ABV, which is the minimum ABV percentage that is required in order to call something whiskey.
The exceptions, in this case, include the Jameson Blenders Dog which has a 43% ABV, and Jameson Bow Street 18 which has a much higher 55.3% ABV. Alternatively, it seems like every bottle of Bushmills comes in at 40% ABV.
One of the greatest things about Irish Whiskey is that it has a much cheaper price point than other whiskeys like Scotch. If you’re a Scotch enthusiast then you have no choice but to shell out $50 to procure your average single malt.
As for Irish whiskey, both of these products can sell for under $30 for the regular stuff. They do sell more exclusive, or fancier whiskeys that have a higher price point.
And as usual, when it comes to things that need to be aged or matured, then the longer the spirit has been aging, the more expensive it’s going to be, which is something that you need to bear in mind.
This one, unfortunately, is no competition. Jameson is the most popular Irish whiskey in the whole world. More than 90% of Jameson products are exported to countries all over the world. But that doesn’t mean that we can sell Bushmills short.
It is still second best, and still incredibly popular with its loyal fans.
There isn’t really a lot that differentiates the two, and whether you go for Jameson or Bushmills, you’re going to have a great experience with these two whiskeys.
They’re both great, smooth whiskeys that go down a treat, and to really know which one you’re going to prefer, you’ll honestly just have to try them.
Luckily, they’re both particularly cheap when compared to other good-aged spirits, so picking up two bottles isn’t going to set you back too far.
If you’d like to pick either of them up, you can find them here:
As always, please drink responsibly.