Bushmill’s Black Bush—luring bears into the liquor store

My fellow inebriates,

This week one of my favourite booze websites, Good Spirits News (GSN), drew my attention to Bushmill’s Black Bush Whiskey. When I saw they had given it an A+, I immediately went online to see if our government booze store stocked it. Score! It was even on sale for $34.99.

Bushmill's Irish Whiskey bottle

For this marvellous shopping trip, I accompanied my mum, riding in her backpack. I hadn’t been out of the house since long before the pandemic, so this was novel. The whole world had changed. Our booze store had even rebranded.

My mum was reluctant to take me along. In the past, I’ve attempted to stay behind at the store. But she told me if I tried to hop out of the backpack this time and take up residence in the Irish whiskey section, I’d probably end up being destroyed (and not in the good, wasted kind of way). She pointed out that I was no longer as fluffy as I was when I first sprang from the liquor store’s Christmas share-a-bear sale so many years ago.

I countered that neither was she.

Still, I took her point about the common practice of darting bears that show up at liquor stores and promised to stay in the backpack.

Happens all the time.

Thus we made a surgical strike, claimed our Black Bush and hightailed it out of there.

Two days later (why??? why do I always have to wait???) we tried it. Our friends at GSN were correct—Black Bush is a fine whiskey that’s weighty and rich in a classic toasty-caramel vein. On the nose you get faint nuttiness and butterscotch. On the palate it has a ton going on—some spices, some dried fruits and some tea tannins. Those flavours develop in your mouth and finish off on the sweet side. In short, it takes your palate through a small journey, much like my foray in the backpack, although without the threat of being darted.

Black Bush is made from 80% malt whiskey and 20% grain whiskey, which makes it a bargain (regular $38.99). It spends years in sherry casks, which confers a sweetness on it that my dad and I noticed right out of the gate. My mum didn’t find it sweet, but that’s because she’s been hanging out in the Canadian rye section for so long. Still, she felt connected to this whiskey because it hails from her mum’s birthplace, County Antrim in Northern Ireland (although Bushmill’s is owned by the folks who make Cuervo).

By Jonathan Schachter, 2005, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5848335

Given how little travel is going on these days, Black Bush is the closest we’re going to get to Northern Ireland anytime soon, so we might as well drink copious amounts of it.

And you, too, my fellow inebriates. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced whiskey you can sip or mix into a mean cocktail, this is it. Get your mother to put you in a backpack and take you to your local booze shop ASAP!

Ha! My parents wish someone would ID them.

My Fellow Inebriates,

As you know, my parents are ancient. It has been decades since they were carded at the liquor store. But this cat looks like it IDs everybody.


How Smirnoff keeps us young

Our bank is right beside the liquor store.

For some people this would be a problem, and for us it is. How does one deposit a cheque and then walk or drive past the liquor store without stopping in?

Today there was the added draw of a Smirnoff sampler table featuring Fluffed Marshmallow and Whipped Cream vodka.

OMG, I have always wanted to try these silk purses made from the jaggedly nasty sow’s ear that is Smirnoff.

Don’t get me wrong—I totally love Smirnoff, my fellow inebriates. If my parents ever kick me out and I have to live on the curb beside the liquor store (beside the bank), Smirnoff will be my brand. With its compulsive diversity and unfailing appeal to sophomoric binge drinkers, Smirnoff enraptures attention-deficient vodka lovers everywhere. Why have a different Smirnoff every day of the week when you can have a different one every day of the month?

So, needless to say, I was totally pissed that my parents’ banking errand turned into a bear-less vodka-tasting adventure at the Smirnoff counter. Even when they described the shot measure (or “dosage,” as my mother called it) as minuscule, I felt totally burned. You see, we’re never going to buy these products for our home, so unless I get invited on some future liquor-store foray, I’ll never taste them, people.

But wait, let’s back up. This wasn’t my dad’s first tasting of Fluffed Marshmallow and Whipped Cream Smirnoff. He had it last night when he was in the store and came back raving about it. He totally loved it. He said if it had been available in mickey size he would have bought it. But today he went there with my killjoy mother, who compared both varieties unfavorably with liquid antibiotics and poisoned his mind against frivolous vodka flavors.

I had no idea my mother could be influential at all. I mean, my dad bought our last car without consulting her. How could she possibly have changed his mind about Whipped Cream and Fluffed Marshmallow Smirnoff?

Last night my dad said these products were creamy and smooth—delicious enough to be enjoyed straight-up and (particularly the Whipped Cream) perfect ingredients for a Creamsicle cocktail.

Today he said they were TOO SWEET.

“What the hell?” I asked, and he said:

“Last night my tastebuds were in a different place.”

Like, not with my mum! His tastebuds were in a good place! In a place his tastebuds should have stayed until he felt ready to complete a transaction and bring some silly-flavored vodka home. OMG!!

Here Smirnoff does this awesome thing: It takes its crappy bottom-shelf base product and adds exciting, ridiculous flavors to it then markets the shit out of it, effectively transforming caterpillars into bright, beautiful butterflies in Blueberry, Cherry, Citrus, Coconut, Cranberry, Dark Roasted Espresso, Grape, Green Apple, Iced Cake, Kissed Caramel, Lime, Mango, Melon, Orange, Passionfruit, Peach, Pear, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Spiced Root Beer, Strawberry, Vanilla, Watermelon, Fluffed Marshmallow and Whipped Creamand using vibrant packaging and savvy marketing, Smirnoff persuades a guy like my dad that its product is actually yummy, so much so that he’s considering going back to buy a bottle…and…and.

My mum comes along and wrecks it.

I was bereft, so I got one of my hobo friends to take me to the store for a sample. (This might have been a hallucination, but I still came away with tasting notes.)

“Confectionary” flavors raise obvious concerns because of their attractiveness to underage drinkers and bears. I bet five- and six-year-old V and P could put away a shot each without complaint—that’s how sweet the vodkas are.

Whipped Cream Smirnoff is much more redolent of Cool Whip than whipping cream; its production couldn’t possibly have taxed any cows. It’s is suitable for shots, special coffee, and cake flavoring, as, despite being an indubitably chemical creation, it suggests food.

Whipped Marshmallow Smirnoff isn’t much different although it has a bit more complexity. The marshmallows are s’more-like: toasty campfire marshmallows rather than plain marshmallow fluff or Peeps. Either way, this product suggests childhood. On a 0-10 sweetness scale it gets an 11.

Despite the sense of being trivialized as a consumer and manipulated with the illusion of product diversity, I love knowing the Smirnoff people are always thinking creatively. But, just like in V’s favorite Robert Munsch story about the 500 marker colors, one day they will run out of ideas and resort to a vodka flavor like “cow plop.” Until then, there’s definitely a place in everyone’s liquor cabinet for stupid vodka flavors like Whipped Cream and Fluffed Marshmallow.