Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by The Busker Irish Whiskey. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
The Busker Irish Whiskey. It makes me think of a bottle of whiskey performing out on the street. Maybe the full line up as a little band… Anyway… I’m looking at the full line up of The Busker Irish Whiskey, owned by Disaronno International, produced at the Royal Oak Distillery. Initially brought to market in 2020, they now include four bottlings to represent the four legal styles of Irish whiskey. Those styles are blended, pot still, malt, and grain whiskeys. It is important to remember that these classifications mean different things when discussing Irish Whiskey than they do when discussing Scotch.
If you have ever been interested in the minutia of Irish Whiskey I recommend checking out Ireland’s technical file. For those not interested in reading through a legal document I’ll summarize some key points. The use of the word “single” in the style of Irish Whiskey means it is coming from one distillery. Pot Still Irish Whiskey has a minimum of 30% malted barley, a minimum of 30% unmalted barley, and only up to 5% other cereal grains. Malt Irish Whiskey must be 100% malted barley. Both Pot Still and Malt Irish Whiskies must be distilled in pot stills and have a flavor and aroma derived from the ingredients used.
Grain Irish Whiskey must contain malted barley, but no more than 30% of it can be malted barley. The rest of the mash bill can be made up of whole unmalted cereals. This must be distilled in column stills and have a flavor that reflects the ingredients and distillation method. All three styles must be aged a minimum of three years in wooden casks on the island of Ireland. Blended Irish Whiskey is a blend of two or more of the above three styles.
Royal Oak Distillery is one of many in the revitalization of Irish distilleries. A quick look at wikipedia shows a solid list of active distilleries, but you will notice a significant portion have been founded after 2015. With a minimum aging requirement of three years, many of these do not even have a product on the market yet, or have only recently introduced whiskeys. The Busker looks to separate itself through its choice of casks, like utilizing ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and ex-marsala casks in different combinations.
While they aren’t my favorite Irish whiskeys, The Busker line up makes for a good flight. These are interesting expressions that give a good baseline to see what production style or classification you prefer.
Tasting Notes: The Busker Single Malt
Vital Stats: 44.3% ABV, Irish single malt whiskey, aged in bourbon and sherry casks, $39.99 for a 750ml bottle.
Appearance: Golden straw in color. Thinly coats the glass and makes several large tears before slowly falling.
Nose: Smells of lemon and barley initially. Hints of scones and Luxardo cherries underlie those initial scents.
Palate: I get a maple sweetness that transitions to caramel at the mid palate. There are some subtle hints of dried cherry and apple. The finish is long and light with the grain being very present and just a bit of black pepper helping it along. As I drink more, a little sulfur makes itself known. Water brings out more of the grain and just a general sweetness with a note of vanilla becoming apparent on the back end. The finish becomes even lighter without the bit of pepper.
Tasting Notes: The Busker Triple Cask Triple Smooth
Vital Stats: 40% ABV, Irish blended whiskey, aged in bourbon, Marsala, and sherry casks, $26.99 per 750ml bottle.
Appearance: Yellow with a golden hue. Thick streaks form on the glass followed by small beads that slowly fall.
Nose: Baked apple and sherry are the first impressions. But as I continue to come back to it I get apple cider vinegar and a bit of the Marsala wine. It was hard to place until I read about the cask finishing.
Palate: It has a very light flavor profile with a watered down caramel sweetness. The flavors of the sherry and marsala are driving this, providing just a hint of tannin. The finish leaves a faint sulfur and white pepper. This does not need water; the addition pushes out much of the subtle flavor it has and leaves it tasting like grain spirit.
Tasting Notes: The Busker Single Grain
Vital Stats: 44.3% ABV, Irish single grain whiskey, aged in bourbon and Marsala casks, $42.99 per 750ml bottle.
Appearance: Pale straw yellow in color. Forms a thick ring that slowly beads to form big slow tears.
Nose: Alcohol and grain at first inspection. While the ethanol continues to be present in the nose there are hints of dried fruits including pineapple, candied orange, and golden raisin.
Palate: Light up front with a bit of a bite at the end. Delicate flavor profile to start with notes of honeysuckle, a yeasty quality that reminds me of Champagne, and just a drop of caramel. Right before the finish this gets a bit of a bite with a big burst of pepper and a hint of sulfur. This subsides quickly to a mellow finish with just a touch of that sulfur lingering with bit of what I can only describe as mushroom cooked in a dry wine. The addition of water makes the flavor profile less interesting, but still very pleasant. The flavors stay subtle. I get a lot of sweetness up front with notes of caramel, cotton candy, and toasted grain. The finish becomes clean and very mild with just a hint of the grain remaining with me.
Tasting Notes: The Busker Single Pot Still
Vital Stats: 44.3% ABV, Irish single pot still whiskey, aged in bourbon and sherry casks, $42.99 per 750ml bottle.
Appearance: Very clear golden honey in color, it forms a thin ring on the glass with tears that are slow to form and slower to fall.
Nose: Alcohol is present but less pronounced than in the single grain. There is something overall a little musty about this one but has sweet hints of peanut brittle as well as notes of dry sherry.
Palate: This is thicker and richer on the palate than the others. Caramel and grain dominate the palate, but don’t get sweet. The finish leaves me chewing on a kind of meaty quality with just a hint of that peppery tannin. It’s a very savory finish. Water flattens out the front of the palate but keeps the notes of caramel and grain. The finish is a little less savory, bringing that quality of a herb roasted and glazed meat without any of the meat flavor.
Final thoughts: I think The Busker is stronger as a full line up than any of the individual bottles. It was a fun flight and interesting to drink side by side. It’s worth checking out, but certainly not replacing my favorites. However, it is something I could recommend ordering a flight of at a whiskey bar or grabbing to taste through with a group of friends. Each individual bottle holds up alright on their own, but the variety really shines through when being able to compare them.