Whiskey Review: The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Sometimes, I walk into a liquor store with a shopping list of what I need: brands I’ve researched well in advance, things that I know I need to grab before I head to the door. But other times, I just wander around looking for interesting things that grab my eye. This bottle comes from one of the latter excursions — a brand I’ve never heard of before with an eye catching bottle seemed like something I really needed to examine closer. So let’s find out if this bottle of Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey was a happy accident… or a case of buyer’s remorse.



There is no “Sexton Distillery” to speak of in Ireland, so there really isn’t a good marker for where this spirit comes from. The closest hint we have is that it was imported by Proximo Spirits, an importer in the United States who also imports Bushmills Irish Whiskey — based on some of the sleuthing done by other reviewers, we can be pretty confident that Bushmills had something to do with the production of this bottle (the fact that this is triple distilled in pot stills, which is Bushmill’s claim to fame, is a strong hint).

The practice of whiskey distilling had taken place in the town of Bushmills for centuries, with one of the earliest recorded instances of whiskey drinking dating to 1276.

By the 1600s, the production of whiskey had started to be taxed and licenses were required for the commercial production of the spirit. One of the first people to be issued a license was Sir Thomas Phillips, an English knight-turned-mercenary. He obtained a license in 1608 for his distillery in Bushmills in Northern Ireland and started production.

Over the years the distillery went into and out of business, with the Bushmills Old Distillery Company founded in 1784 to handle the distillery operations.

The company was purchased in 1860 by a pair of Belfast spirit merchants named Jame McColgan and Patrick Corrigan, who invested a significant amount of time and money to make it commercially viable. A fire in 1885 destroyed all of the original facilities and buildings, but it was quickly rebuilt and only five years later a brand new steam ship named the S.S. Bushmills (funded, owned, and operated by the owners of the distillery) made its very first crossing of the Atlantic ocean to bring their whiskey to the United States, before continuing on a public relations cruise to Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

The steamship would continue operating for the merchants before eventually meeting an unfortunate fate running aground on a large rock while steaming from Liverpool to Cardiff on January 11th, 1911. Nevertheless, the ship would be the inspiration for a “steamship” line of whiskey produced by the facility.

Because of this strong focus on exporting, the United States became a major component of Bushmills’ success — and when prohibition started in 1920, it had a major impact on their business. While many other distilleries were forced to close, Bushmills limped along while their owners hedged bets that prohibition wouldn’t last very long and began stockpiling product in anticipation of that market re-opening. When that dark period of American history finally ended, Bushmills flooded the market with their product, springing to popularity and gaining a permanent foothold in the United States.

The company would eventually be sold to the Irish Distillers group in 1972, which would in turn be purchased by the French company Pernod Ricard in 1988. Pernod Ricard maintain ownership and operation of the facility to this day.


There’s very little detail about anything relating to this bottle, from the manufacturer to the actual process used to make it. It really seems like the producer is relying on the strength of the packaging to sell the product, which is something we’ll get to in a minute here.

As an Irish single malt whiskey, we know that 100% of the raw materials for this spirit had to come from malted barley (legally speaking). Those grains are soaked in water and allowed to partially germinate, releasing some of the enzymes needed to convert the starchy grains into the simple sugar needed for fermentation. Once malted, the grains are milled, cooked, and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic liquid that is then distilled three times in copper pot stills (as is traditional for Irish whiskies).

The newly made whiskey is then placed into previously-used sherry casks for a period of at least four years for maturation before being blended together and bottled for sale.

There’s a valid question as to whether this is purposefully distilled product or just the unsaleable leftovers from Bushmills that have been repackaged and passed off as something new. In Bushmill’s flagship Black Bush product, a portion of the whiskey is matured in sherry casks… making it likely that this is just a re-packaged Black Bush by another name.


The history is nonexistent, the provenance is questionable, and the product seems to be literally scraping the bottom of the barrel… but the packaging is top notch.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whiskey bottle that looks quite like this. The body of the bottle is shaped like a hexagon — six flat sides with rounded and soft edges. The middle section of the bottle is flat and provides enough space for the label, but elsewhere on those sides there’s some interesting ribbing that reminds me of the embellishments that you’d see on turn-of-the-century bottles. It’s an older style and it stands out on the shelf, which is the entire point.

The body of the bottle quickly transitions to a flat top and a short neck. I’ll note that this short neck is attractive and looks good, but is a pain to actually use. I think I’ve dribbled a little bit of whiskey on myself every time I’ve tried to pour a glass, which is annoying and preventable. That short neck is topped off with a plastic stopper.

As for the label and the color of the bottle, they have gone with a darker theme. The bottle is colored jet black and the liquid inside is practically invisible. On the label, they have gone for a metallic copper ink which provides an excellent contrast to the black label — and I must admit, looks great.

What’s most striking is the logo for the brand: a skeleton in a top hat. It’s a macabre icon, but one that really does seem to fit with the Victorian vibe.



The very first thing you’ll notice is that this is darker than most Irish or Scottish spirits. There’s a tendency for those spirits to have a lighter color — the best near-direct comparison would be Bushmills Black Bush, which is more of a straw color. In this case, though, we’re darn close to the rusty amber that you’d expect from an American bourbon.

Coming off that liquid are some familiar aromas, and ones that are most welcome. Right off the bat, I’m getting some dried raisins and brown sugar — telltale signs of that sherry cask maturation process. Supporting those rich and interesting notes are some more traditional Irish whiskey items like floral blossoms, honey sweetness, fresh melon, sourdough bread, and some light vanilla. It’s actually closer to a Scottish whiskey than an Irish one in that aspect, specifically a Highlands scotch like a Macallan.

Taking a sip, the flavors are deeper and richer than I expected. It starts off as dried raisins but quickly escalates to dried figs, before delving even deeper to a point where it’s precariously close to being a syrupy balsamic vinegar. Thankfully, though, around the same time some brown sugar sweetness joins the flavor profile and starts steering things back towards the fruity end of the spectrum, morphing into some toasted caramel and vanilla before ending right back at the note of dried figs. On the finish, I’m getting a little bit of the flower blossom or black tea flavor and just a touch of sourdough bread from the malted barley.

On Ice

Typically, what we’ve seen with inexpensive spirits (as in, cheaply made or mass produced) is a blended product — one where there’s a small portion of actually characterful and delicious spirits supported by a larger quantity of cheap and boring filler. That might pass muster when taken neat, but with some added ice, the reality of the situation has a tendency to show itself.

But that doesn’t happen in this case — it passes the test with flying colors.

Rather than simply being a watered down and boring glass of spirits, this continues to provide a lot of the components that we saw when we sipped it neat. The floral blossoms, the black tea, and even the toasted caramel are all still present and contributing to the flavor profile. Even the dark fruit (raisins, dried figs, etc) are present, although in this case their participation is significantly curtailed.

I do feel like the experience is a bit of a letdown when taken neat. That darker fruity flavor really helped provide some good depth and balance to the spirit, and on ice it has been toned down enough that the drink becomes less interesting. It’s still very good, but it was better neat.

Cocktail (Old Fashioned)

Typically, I don’t think of an Irish whiskey as being the right choice for an old fashioned. There just isn’t enough depth and character to the spirit — and while the sweetness has a tendency to balance out the bitters, what remains is usually rather bland. In this case, though, I think I’ll make an exception.

What comes through here and makes this different are those dried fruit flavors. There’s just enough dried raisin and fig in the glass to make things interesting and balance out the bitters, leaving behind an interesting flavor profile that just needs a little bit of added sweetness to tie it all together. I think a bar spoon of demerara simple syrup is all you need here to make it perfect.

I do want to highlight that, without that sweetness, there’s just a bit of bitterness in the black tea component of the whiskey’s flavor that almost makes this a Dublin Sour instead of an old fashioned. It’s got a little bit of a bite to it — which might actually be appealing, depending on what kind of snacks you’re pairing alongside this cocktail.

Fizz (Mule)

There’s a lot going on in a mule, from the added ice to the potent mixers, which makes it a challenge for spirits to stand out or even holding their own. In this case, I think the whiskey does a fine job making a passable cocktail, but I wouldn’t call it a home run.

Most important is the balance between the flavors: there’s just enough sweetness and richness remaining in the whiskey to tie together the ginger beer and the lime juice into one harmonious mixture… but not really enough that the richer flavors are clearly visible on their own. I can tell they are present more from the impact they have on the other flavors than from directly observing them myself, if that makes sense.

The one thing that does come through is a bit of floral blossom from the whiskey. I’m not sure it’s necessarily the best for this mixture of flavors, but it’s different and interesting enough to be of note.


Overall Rating

Based solely on the packaging, I’m a buyer. This looks great and has a great shelf appeal. Add in the fact that it’s a pretty darn enjoyable sipping whiskey and I wouldn’t be mad to try a dram of this on occasion. It doesn’t make great cocktails, but there are some good flavors in here that I find interesting and enjoyable.

What I don’t like, and what’s keeping me from giving it higher marks, is the lack of transparency — and I’m not talking about the dark glass on the bottle. If Sexton would just answer the question “who made this?”, I’d be happy. Where did it come from? Are there any additives? Inquiring minds want to know, and are frustrated by the opaque marketing materials.

The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Produced By: The Sexton
Production Location: Ireland
Classification: Single Malt Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $31.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 4/5
A sweet and delicious Irish whiskey that has some deeper and richer dried fruit flavors thanks to the sherry cask maturation. Worth a taste!


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