Diageo has unveiled an extension of its Bushmills Irish whiskey stable, to coincide with the first global advertising campiagn for the brand.

The drinks giant yesterday (11 December) announced the launch of Bushmills 1608, released to celebrate next year's 400th anniversary of the granting of Bushmill's original licence to distil.

The blended whiskey, which does not contain whiskey dating back to 1608, is available from this month in the Bushmills distillery shop, and will launch in the brand's key markets, including the US, most of Europe, Japan and Russia, in February. After 2008, Bushmills 1608 will only be available from the distillery shop and in the travel retail channel, at a suggested price of GBP49 (US$99) per bottle.

Bushmills 1608 joins Bushmills Original, Black Bush and Bushmills 10-, 16- and 21-Year Olds in the brand's portfolio.

The launch of Bushmills 1608 coincides with the brand's first global advertising campaign, entitled 'Welcome', which forms part of a GBP6m (US$12.3m) investment by Diageo into the brand's production and marketing.

The ad campaign is being rolled out in markets through ten print executions. The ads feature employees from the Old Bushmills Distillery and convey some facts and stories relating to the brand.

Bushmills has also secured the position of the official spirit of the Irish national rugby team. The tie-up, financial details of which were not disclosed, will run throughout next year, focusing heavily on the six-nations championship, starting in February.

"The 400th anniversary presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Bushmills to capitalise on the growth of the Irish whiskey segment and to set both the tone and pace of on-going marketing support for a key brand in the Diageo portfolio," said Bushmills' global brand director, Shivaun Lucey. "Today, as our only Irish whiskey, Bushmills is receiving the commitment it deserves to leverage both its fantastic heritage and quality."

Diageo acquired Bushmills in 2005 for GBP200m from Pernod Ricard, after the French company completed the takeover of Allied Domecq.