21 February 2024

128th Whisky Insiders Interview - Alex Thomas

Bushmills Irish Whiskey
Master Blender

How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I joined the Bushmills team in 2004 and since then have spent over 19 years honing my craft, fascinated by the maturation phase of the whiskey-making process. It was such a privilege to be appointed Master Blender in 2021.

The craftmanship and passion that goes into Bushmills is something that has truly captured my imagination. Whiskey fans know Bushmills for its four centuries of quality and taste, and part of my job is ensuring that we continue to meet that high standard.

I will be celebrating my 20th year working at Bushmills this April, which is a huge milestone for me.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
My biggest highlight to date was becoming the Bushmills Master Blender and seeing my name on the bottle for the first time.  I am immensely proud of the worldwide appreciation of our triple-distilled Irish whiskeys, and I look forward to leaving my own mark on the enduring legacy we have built.

The Old Bushmills Distillery is a very special place, and every day I get to explore my passion to develop new whiskeys and experiment with different casks and flavours.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
Of course, I remember like it was yesterday. When I was old enough, my dad introduced me to a personal favourite of his, Bushmills Black Bush. 

What does whisky mean to you?
Whiskey is an unwavering passion in my life. A true love that I get to incorporate into both my personal life and my professional career. 

Cherished by my grandfather, my uncle and my father; the golden liquid has flowed from generation to generation in my family. Through good times and bad, special occasions and celebrations, Bushmills was a loyal confidant, comfort and celebrant.

I am honoured and privileged to carry on the legacy of Bushmills, toasting to those who have gone before us and excelling to provide for those who come after us. I truly believe that if you do something you love, you don’t work a day in your life. Getting to experience the wonderful aromas first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening is a privilege I do not take for granted. 

Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
What a question! I would like to see myself continuing to perfect my craft. I hope to continue to innovate and create exciting, experimental new expressions for whiskey drinkers around the world, like we do with The Causeway Collection and our other truly unique single malt Irish whiskey innovations

For me there is nothing better than this. We must continually innovate; we cannot stand still!

What was your last dram?
My most recent dram was actually today. I had the privilege of tasting a delicious 1992 Bushmills single malt finished in a Malaga cask. The perks of being Master Blender! 

Do you have a favourite whiskey and food pairing combination?
Our Bushmills 16 Year Old single malt is a whiskey I continuously come back to. It is an extremely versatile liquid with a beautiful flavour profile. This exceptional single malt is a marriage of malts matured for at least 16 years in hand-selected Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels, including a finish of up to one year in port pipes.

The unique triple casking process transforms the colour to a beautiful ruby red and adds layers of juicy sun-ripened dark fruit and berries, complex almond nuttiness, and a treacly vanilla spice. In terms of pairing, this expression lends itself perfectly to be savoured alongside seafood, red meat, pork, Peking duck or blue cheese. In my opinion, it is one of our most versatile whiskeys.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
Anywhere with friends and family. It's those you hold dear that make life worth living, so getting to make memories over a great whiskey with them makes me extremely happy.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon? 
Irish whiskey is one of the fastest growing spirits categories in the world, which is fantastic for our industry.

From just four operational distilleries in 2010, there are now over 40 on the island of Ireland. The advent of new players is making the category more vibrant and in turn encouraging the recruitment of new consumers to the Irish whiskey category.     

Here at Bushmills, no matter what big trends we see, we will continue to innovate in our relentless pursuit of perfection. We want to give people a real experience when they are drinking Bushmills, which is why premiumisation continues to be a trend and a priority for us. 

At the Old Bushmills Distillery, we continue to innovate and create new expressions for whiskey drinkers around the world, such as our 25 Year Old, 30 Year Old, and Causeway Collection.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
I particularly love to linger over our Bushmills 16 Year Old single malt, as I relax and mull over the day that’s been, but every whiskey has its perfect time and setting. That’s one of the amazing things about the range at Bushmills – we have a whiskey for every occasion!

Many thanks to Alex Thomas. Who will be our next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!