Let’s set the scene for a moment. In the midst of a sell out Cadenhead’s Edinburgh tasting with the overlord himself Mark Watt, the whisky, jokes and information were being abundantly tossed around a packed downstairs room like a bunch of kids on a sugar rush. At times it actually felt I was part of an Edinburgh Fringe show as the atmosphere was so jovial and chilled. A truly engaging whisky experience.
Thanks to the sheets of paper on the tables we knew the drams of the evening but not necessarily the order. The mysterious Islay malt that begins in L and ends in N would be the default finale. Things kicked off admirably enough with a tasty Strathisla 20 year old. The perfect start me up to the joys ahead. Mark thankfully isn’t one of these hosts that demands no prior drinking of alcohol, holding the glass in the correct manner or adopting tweed or facial growth. It’s all about the whisky and thankfully so. You can see some footage of the event on our Facebook page.
Also on our list of destinations was the rising star of Ben Nevis in the form of the 176th Anniversary bottling – that’ll be on my distillery vertical soon – followed by the 1993 Cadenhead’s Warehouse tour Glenlossie, which is a lovely little thing. There was also the small matter of a 39 year old Miltonduff from one of Speyside’s most underrated distilleries. The question is my mind was the 13 year old Hazelburn that has only just been rolled into the Cadenhead’s Warehouse tour last week. Traditionally this triple distilled malt would be an early entry on any tasting list. Even Mark joked he must be mad for slotting into 5th position in our tasting line-up – just before the mysterious Islay distillery that inspired the range of Aga ovens.
One of my mission statements for Malt this year was to review more Hazelburn and Cadenhead’s releases so this is a double whammy. The cask itself comes from the sublime Cadenhead’s Warehouse tour and traditionally you need to venture to Campbeltown – no easy feat – before taking the tour itself. What is on the tour isn’t guaranteed. Your host may pick 5 or 6 casks from a list of possibilities and then you let your preferences decide what you’d like to purchase. I’ve written about the tour previously on Malt so go check that out and we’ll crack on.
Hazelburn is a style of distillate produced at Springbank distillery that harks back to the lost Campbeltown distillery surprisingly called Hazelburn. It was well regarded for its triple distilled whisky. A style that the Irish borrowed and made their own. It has enjoyed brief spells of popularity at some distilleries but the true triple distilled whisky nowadays in Scotland is at Auchentoshan. Yes, not exactly selling the style to anyone now is it. Moving on rapidly. I’ve touched upon the possibilities this style of production offers in a recent 7 year old Hazelburn cage bottling review. Ultimately in summary, though the only thing when you visit the cage at the back of the shop that is guaranteed is Hazelburn. Everyone flocks around the Longrow and Springbank. Yes, they are delicious but don’t forget the overlooked wee soul that is Hazelburn, or rather keep on trucking past it and leave the enjoyable stuff to the few who do appreciate it.
Mark agreed with this viewpoint and even went further suggesting if Hazelburn was an actual distillery that folk would be going mental for any release. Truly in the midst of a frenzied whisky purchasing spree. It offers a cracking whisky now and again. Ok, yes it may need a little more work and effort and isn’t as immediate as a Longrow or Springbank, but ultimately once harnessed the satisfaction is an equal.
Cadenhead’s have a well-known agreement with their close neighbour that each year they’ll receive a single cask of each distillate for their warehouse tour. Mark confirmed the Springbank and Hazelburn have been received, but the Kilkerran is awaited. All good things come to those that wait. In the meantime, we’ll settle down with the Hazelburn that represents their cask for 2018. It was distilled on 8th October 2004, bottled 10th April 2018 making it 13 years old. Residing in a sherry hogshead for the full maturation this resulted in a strength of 54.8%. You can drop into the tasting once again via Facebook as Mark talks about this Hazelburn and much more. If you do manage to take the tour and this cask is on it, expect to pay £75 for a bottle.
Cadenhead’s Hazelburn 2004 – review
Colour: cherry wood.
On the nose: a rich arrival of cherries, orange peel, leather, dark chocolate digestive and walnuts. It’s a classic sherry influence but not domineering as the Hazelburn spirit seeps into the experience. Toffee and hazelnut, malty, treacle, a slight mossy characteristic all combining to suggest a thick luscious texture. Yeah, we’ll find out soon enough.
In the mouth: in a word flavour and power. More chocolate yes, but underpinned by soot and juicy raisins. Mahogany, cloves, all-spice and cinnamon bark. Stewed black breakfast tea, linseed and then back to coffee.
This is the sort of whisky that will make everyone take note of Hazelburn. Another head turner from the dark recesses of the Cadenhead’s Warehouse tour. One to sit alongside the crazed Kilkerran 13 year old Port & Bourbon bottling as we build this list of the Scotland Yard’s most wanted. Roll on the Campbeltown Festival and a thorough Malt investigation.