Bushmills master blender Helen Mulholland creates innovative whiskeys

Bushmills Master Distiller Helen Mulholland. Supplied photo

Helen Mulholland, Master Blender for Bushmills Irish Whiskey, has a nose in a million—a nose that truly understands all the intricate notes, aromas and flavours of whiskey. It is a rare gift and one that plays such an important part in crafting the Bushmills® Irish whiskey premium blends and aged single malts.

With a Master’s Degree in Science, Helen began her career in 1993 in the small laboratory at The Old Bushmills Distillery and today, over 25 years later, she is steeped in the art of whiskey-making and blending, and she is immensely proud of the worldwide appreciation of Bushmills triple-distilled Irish whiskey. With hundreds of thousands of casks of whiskey slowly maturing in warehouses at The Old Bushmills Distillery, Helen has a treasure trove of whiskeys from which to craft her famous creations. She has a particularly deep knowledge of the effect of wood on her whiskeys and her selection of appropriate casks for ageing is rigorous. Helen describes the process of sampling and choosing whiskeys as a sensory journey of sight, smell and taste and she revels in helping to create innovative new blends, most recently the new Bushmills® 12 Year Old Single Malt, developed exclusively for the Asian market.

Choosing the right casks—whether for her blends or for aged single malts—is a lengthy journey with choices about cask profiles and ages, always seeking a harmony of aromas and rich flavours. Helen nurtures her casks and spends time in the warehouses to ‘awaken the sleeping spirits’—her description of sampling—in order to make her decisions on composition. She is passionate about ensuring that we have a whiskey to suit everyone—like Bushmills® Original with its fresh fruit and vanilla hues, or Black Bush® with its deep sherry rich dried fruit tones.

For the discerning whiskey lover, she recommends the Bushmills Irish whiskey single malts which have their own distinct characters: the Bushmills® 10 Year Old Single Malt with a honey sweetness, the complex Bushmills® 16 Year Old Single Malt with its dark chocolate notes and the Bushmills® 21 Year Old Single Malt, an amazingly rich whiskey with a delightful harmony of flavours. In 2018, Helen became the first woman to be inducted into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame since its inception in 2004.

The Old Bushmills Distillery sits on the banks of the River Bush. Supplied photo

The Distillery

The Old Bushmills Distillery is a special place to make whiskey. It’s situated on the rugged and beautiful north coast of Ireland in the village of Bushmills—from which we take our name—not far from the world-famous Giant’s Causeway geological formation. The River Bush, which runs from the Antrim Hills through the same type of basalt rock that makes up the Giant’s Causeway, passes through Bushmills before reaching the sea at Portballintrae on the north Antrim coast. The quality of our ingredients is vital to the quality of the final whiskey and water is critical to the process of creating Bushmills Irish whiskey. Ours is drawn from Saint Columb’s Rill, which is a tributary of the River Bush.

The Old Bushmills Distillery is one of the few ‘grain to glass’ distilleries in Ireland, which means our whiskey is crafted with care in small batches on one site, rather than in different locations. This process includes all the critical stages of production—malt distilling, maturing, blending and bottling.


Try these recipes with your Bushmills Original Whiskey or Bushmills Black Bush:

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