Bushmills and Jameson are two brands deeply intertwined in the rich history of Irish whiskey. These rivals have been competing for centuries to claim the title of the most popular and prominent representative of Irish whiskey, and they remain right on each others’ heels.
The main difference between Bushmills and Jameson whiskey is that Bushmills is slightly sweeter and made with pure barley, while Jameson has a smokier flavor and uses a mix of barley and maize.
Another way to distinguish Bushmills whiskey from Jameson whiskey is the color and smell. Bushmills has a slightly lighter medium-yellow appearance that matches its sweeter smell, while Jameson has a deep copper color and a woodsy aroma.
Any Irish whiskey must age for at least three years in wooden casks. Bushmills goes above and beyond by aging it for at least five years. Jameson also goes longer than it must but stops at a minimum aging time of four years.
In general, this means that Bushmills has a slightly smoother overall profile and goes a little bit better with sweet drinks like ginger ale. Jameson has a bolder flavor and profile, with a more classic Irish whiskey smokiness that’s great for Irish coffee and Irish car bombs.
Bushmills vs Jameson Comparison Table
|Taste:||Sweet honeyed flavor with citrus overtones||Complex, bold smoky charcoal with hints of vanilla|
|Nose:||Citrus, green apple, fruity, sweet malt||Oak richness, smoky embers, woodsy with a slight fig note|
|Color:||Medium yellow||Deep copper|
|Grains:||55% single-malt barley, 45% grain whiskey||20% barley, 80% maize/grain whiskey|
|Distillation:||Triple distilled||Triple distilled|
|ABV:||40% (80 proof)||40% (80 proof)|
|Years aged:||Minimum five years||Minimum four years|
|Best drinks:||Neat, Bushmills and ginger ale, Bushmills with lemon and syrup||Neat, Irish mule with ginger beer and lime juice, Irish car bomb, Irish coffee|
Although there are many differences between these two famous Irish whiskeys, Bushmills and Jameson have many things in common. To start with, both are well-established Irish distilleries.
Bushmills traces its roots back to 1608 when Sir Thomas Phillips received a royal license to distill what is now known as Irish whiskey. The official formation of Bushmills happened in 1784.
Jameson’s origins came slightly later, starting in 1780 in Dublin, Ireland. It first opened as The Steins Family Bow Street Distillery.
In an interesting turn of events, a Scotsman named John Jameson became General Manager in 1786, then eventually took ownership in 1805 before changing the name to the John Jameson and Sons Irish Whiskey Company in 1810.
To be considered official Irish whiskey, the spirit must meet the following legal guidelines:
- Be distilled and aged in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland
- Made from a mash of malted cereals
- Aged for at least three years in wooden casks
- Minimum alcoholic content of 40%
Both Bushmills and Jameson meet these extensive guidelines and, as such, can be sold as Irish whiskey.
When you pop the top off a bottle of Bushmills whiskey, you’re hit with a lovely aroma you might not expect. While many Irish whiskeys have a strong smoky smell, Bushmills whiskey comes with more fruity tones.
Once you pour it into a glass and take a nice whiff, those sweet smells will start to be noticeable. A lemony citrus note will likely be the first thing you notice, followed by other sweet fruits like green apples and apricot.
The color of Bushmills whiskey is a vibrant medium-yellow. It’s similar to molten gold, and when compared to other whiskeys, it’s likely a little lighter than you might expect.
The sweeter side of Bushmills Irish whiskey becomes prevalent after you bring it to your mouth and get a coating on your palette. The honey-like taste combines with the fruity flavor, and the finish is lemony and bright.
The Jameson whiskey experience is quite different. It has a classic Irish whiskey taste and profile, with bold, smoky flavors.
As you pour a serving of Jameson, the oaky notes and smoky embers are more pronounced. It could remind you of smelling pungent wooded areas, with hints of chocolate and vanilla also evident. But it lacks the peaty aspect that’s more typical of Scotch whiskey.
Jameson’s color is closer to a darker deep copper.
The mouthfeel is still light and delicate, but when it rushes over your palette and into your throat, the bold, complex flavor comes out. The smoky charcoal aspects will be the primary exposure, but a vanilla finish will top off the experience.
Bushmills is a better choice for drinks that are a little sweeter, and some prefer it as a sipping whiskey since it’s slightly more complex and smooth than Jameson.
A drink that Bushmills can be great with is a Bushmills with lemon and syrup. It brightens the already-present citrus notes. It’s also good with ginger ale, a sweet soda.
Jameson also works for sipping neat, often with a small splash of water to open it up. But it will be more robust and bold. It’s a good whiskey to understand a baseline for Irish whiskey flavor profiles, and it also does well in the following:
- Irish Mule: Cocktail with ginger beer, lime juice, and mint
- Irish Car Bomb: A shot of half Jameson and half Bailey’s Irish Cream dropped into a glass of Guinness beer and quickly downed.
- Irish Coffee: A splash of Jameson in a cup of coffee.
You can also pair your Irish whiskeys with certain foods.
The biggest difference between Bushmills and Jameson is that Bushmills is slightly sweeter with more fruity notes, while Jameson is bold with a smoky profile. Use Bushmills when you want a lighter, vibrant flavor, and turn to Jameson for more robust smoky flavors.