Whisky Advocate

Thirty five years and still amazed!

March 15th, 2011

You might think that after 35 years of drinking whisky and 20 years of making whisky my living, that I would tire of it.

Not a chance. Whisky is still the most complex, diverse, and cost-effective distilled spirit out there, and the producers continue to inspire and entertain with new releases. I know that there’s always a whisky around the corner that will surprise me, maybe even amaze me.

This past Saturday, I attended the funeral of my best friend’s mother. I was so close to her, I called her mom. My best friend is Irish and when the long day was over, I brought over this bottle of 12 year old Bushmills Distillery Reserve for us to drink.  I’ve had it before and it was delicious.

I picked up this bottle back in 2007 when touring the distillery with Master Distiller Colum Egan. He even signed and dated the bottle. (It’s on the side; you can’t see it.) I was saving it for the right time to open it. This was that time.

Once again, I was thoroughly impressed by this whiskey. It’s so rich, creamy, fruity and complex for a 12 year old. And oh so drinkable: a few friends and I could easily polish off a bottle of this in a day’s time. (Not that we would…)

It’s so easy for us to be critical of whisky, the producers, etc., and I understand why we sometimes are: we are passionate about whisky and we care about it enough to to express our feelings and concerns.

Having said this, we need to bring ourselves back to really what’s most important. Whisky is amazing stuff, and this is still a great time to be drinking whisky. This time, it was Bushmills Distillery Reserve that reminded me of this. Next time, it might be a bourbon or a nice Islay malt.

It’s why, after 35 years of drinking whisky, it still amazes me. And always will.

22 Responses to “Thirty five years and still amazed!”

  1. sam k says:


  2. Red_Arremer says:

    Over time I’ve realized that for me not feeling amazed with whisky, is an early indicator that I’m probably just feeling blase all round. The first time this happened was, ridiculously, at a point when I had only spent serious time with Balvenie Double Wood, Laphroaig 10, and Glenfarclas 12! Then, I tasted the Balvenie 15 Single Barrel.

    It’s happened several times since then, but, as you say, something surprising always comes along. More recently those surprises have been,Bruichladdich 15 2nd Ed., Wathen’s Bourbon, Caol Ila 12 Unpeated, and Johnnie Walker Blue.

    The variety and depth of whisky often remind me to not forget the variety and depth of other important things.

  3. Gary says:

    Well said, John. I have to admit that whiskey is an amazing drink. Complex, simple, seductive and bold. I am but a babe in the world of tasting whiskey and I am loving my education. Thank you.

  4. Vince says:

    Whiskey is such a parrallel to life. Its complex, well balanced, subdued or aggressive. Each with a personality all its own. When I drink whiskey I not only savor the spirit but also life. It never ceases to amaze me.

    • John Hansell says:

      That’s what it’s all about, Vince. Life is an exploration, and whisky is part of that exploration. And as long as I am capable of doing so, I will always approach life in this manner.

      I raise my glass to whatever is around the next bend…

  5. Joe Hyman says:

    I’m on a never ending quest to discover whiskies with WOW factor. It keeps things interesting. Anyone else find some WOW, out there? please share, some of mine the last couple of years: Glenmo Signet, Tobermory 15, Macphail’s Collection Glenturret 1997, Caol Ila DE…

    • Josh West says:

      Same here Joe. That Caol Ila Distillers Edition is something nice aint it? I’ve only had the 2010 and thought it was delicious. Other good WOW whiskies recently for me have been Lagavulin 12yo from 2010, Ardbeg Supernova 2010, and I really enjoyed the Amrut Fusion (Batch #4).

  6. two-bit cowboy says:

    Heartfelt condolences on the loss of your friend’s Mom. Thanks for sharing the story and some of the realizations and philosophies that came from that evening with the Bushmills.

  7. Dutch says:

    A wonderful reminder that whiskey is meant to be drank and not just stored in a cupboard to be stared at. Sorry about your loss, we’re all starting to get to that age where it’s not uncommon to be losing friends or family. It’s time to share that bottle and make good memories!

  8. JMF says:

    Agree. The beauty of whiskey is that while it has so few inputs the results are wide-ranging and there will always be a whiskey that will correspond perfectly to the mood I’m feeling or the climate I’m in.

  9. Jason Pyle says:

    Great post John. Whiskey is amazing stuff indeed and one of those things that just makes life better. Whether it’s remembering someone special, celebrating something great, or just casually enjoying it – all whiskey should be appreciated for what it is. And it’s nice to take the critic/reviewer hat off and just enjoy it.

  10. Louis says:

    Too often, we get all caught up in the thrill of the chase. There are plenty of quality whiskies that AREN’T the oldest, most expensive, hardest to find, in very limited supply, from the 1960’s/1970’s, etc. The right dram at the right time, usually with the right people, doesn’t need any of that to be enjoyable.

    My condolences upon the loss of someone close to you.

  11. T Comp says:

    Wonderfully written thoughts which are a pleasure to read!

  12. Mats says:

    Wonderful piece! Just one additional thought – there are wonderful whiskies, and wonderful situations for drinking whisky. The experience depends on the context as well as the content – and a funeral can indeed be both a time of sorrow and sadness as well as a time of reflection, rememberance and recognition.

    Keep up the good work!

  13. Ryan says:

    Timely thoughts John. To widen that gaze of perspective; thoughts and prayers to all of Japan, and to our fellow whisky admirers and producers in Japan.

  14. Scott says:

    On a comparatively trivial note, it might be interesting to discuss “special occasion” whiskies. First, what whiskies does one set aside to open on a special occasion, and why those particular whiskies? And second, what about the final special occasion whisky – the bottle in one’s cabinet that one leaves there for the guests at one’s wake to enjoy?

    I don’t have a bottle set aside for my own demise yet, but my special occasion whiskies are my last bottle of Balvenie Founders Reserve 10 year old and a bottle of Maker’s Mark double-dipped in red and navy and inscribed “For the Nats Next Pennant” by Frank Howard. Actually, a bottle I can’t open until the Washington Nationals win a pennant probably qualifies as the spirit that will still be in the cabinet when my funeral comes!

    • Texas says:

      Scott, if you get Strasburg back healthy, and if Werth plays up to his potential you never know. Also, maybe you will see Bryce Harper in the bigs next year. I think your Nat are way ahead of my Astros at this point. heck at least you can score some runs..

    • sam k says:

      The guests at my wake will have to deal with whatever’s available in the store, because, like John, I hope to have all my special bottles drained by then. If not, shame on me!

  15. JC Skinner says:

    Absolutely adore that stuff.
    I recall one upsetting Saturday night when I needed picking up and went hunting for my trusty bottle of Distillery reserve Bush and found only a half measure left.
    The next morning, I drove the length of Ireland (well, Dublin to Bushmills, anyway) and waited in the car, reading the paper, until the distillery shop opened to stock up.
    I won’t make that mistake again. For me, it’s one of those cabinet must-haves. I feel kinda insecure if I don’t have at least a bottle of it to hand. I’ll be dipping into some later, I suspect.
    Happy Feile Padraig everyone.

  16. Jewmalt says:

    Wonderfully put, John. I just received a small sample of the 12yo Bushmills Distillery Reserve and am very excited to taste it!

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