One thing I’ve noticed about Hazelburn over the years, online or whether in discussion, is that everyone has a view. This isn’t a marginal whisky, relegated to the dark recesses of your liquor cabinet. Nor is it so far removed from the psyche that an individual will merely shrug their shoulders and exhale meh.
In a way, this is good, because whisky is all about opinion and personal experiences. At times I feel many are becoming entrenched in their own personal pit of despair when ultimately what should unite us – the whisky – is used as a tool to divide and instigate mudslinging. Such antics are tiresome and what better way to justify your outlook via the power of conversation and discovery?
So, it is during these conversations that often we drift into the realm of Hazelburn that is triple distilled in Campbeltown at Springbank distillery. The mere mention of that distillery name for some is a guarantee of quality and all things gud. If only that was indeed the case as many will point to dubious casks and inconsistent releases as their own personal demons. Oh yes, that personal slant again. Personally, I find today’s version of Longrow the weakest of the distillate trio, but it can hold its own in cask warfare unlike Hazelburn, which can become swamped at times as seen in the 2003 Hazelburn oloroso or the 2009 Barolo releases. The latter I’m still trying to enjoy several years later and failing.
We’ve talked about the origins of the original distillery and why Springbank sought to revive a triple distilled distillate. After all, as anyone who has been to Campbeltown can confirm: the Irish are a mere haggis throw away and stole Scotland’s distilling secrets hundreds of years ago. There are many historical legacies when it comes to distilling across Scotland including those at Springbank, which does its own thing, or even Clynelish.
Smooth is one of those awful words we often see banded around whisky. I can recall Auchentoshan using it a great deal to underline the quality outcome of their triple distillation – the only distillery to practice this full-time in Scotland. Yet no one really goes mad for Auchentosham nowadays do they? I mean, I’ve really tried for a few years, they do a solid tour and then you reach the tasting finale. An experience that leaves you deflated and asking why on earth? Sometimes the bottle-your-own offers some glimmer of hope although in recent times it has been overpriced and over-sherried.
There have been shorter runs from numerous distilleries as special editions, or that canny publicity-seeking bunch at Bruichladdich, went a step further with a quadruple run. If we keep it going then we’ll eventually end up with a grain or vodka lookalike and where’s the fun in that?
If you just want a brief overview, then performing a third distillation is costly and increases the alcohol by volume – so why bother? The aim is to remove some of the heavier compounds that can constitute the oils and proteins and instead amplify the lighter characteristics often deemed to be esters that can provide fruity characteristics.
We’ll be seeing more of a triple distillation soon as the resurrection of Rosebank distillery in Falkirk promises a return to this style of distillate. I’ve been fortunate to enjoy many Rosebank’s from across the decades and in its natural state, it is a wonderful thing, so I’m excited about the future and what awaits us in a decade or so. If it wasn’t for that legacy, then Rosebank would be a typical double distillation, as proven by all the Scottish distilleries that have arisen within the last few years. I cannot remember any talking about triple distillation and that’s a shame. Want to stand out from the crowded field? Each doing gins and bottling at 3 years of age? Maybe there is something to this triple distillation lark…
In the meantime, we have this Hazelburn released last year by Cadenhead’s who do treat us to the occasional cask from this distillery on an ad hoc basis. I know this release has divided opinion amongst friends so let’s see what I think of it. This Cadenhead’s Hazelburn was bottled in autumn 2019 from a re-charred hogshead. This resulted in an outturn of 216 bottles at 51.7% strength.
Cadenhead’s Hazelburn 2007 – review
Color: a gold haze.
On the nose: ripe strawberries, red apples, roses and fudge. A little smoke. Malty as well, wine gums and brown sugar. Pineapple cubes, fruit pastels, syrup and toasted oak. Adding water revealed pine cones.
In the mouth: more fruits and a gentle waft of smoke. Peaches, apricots, oranges and a creamy nature. Tined fruit cocktail, ginger, toffee, sappy and more wine gums.
I love this. A gorgeous Hazelburn that I just wanted to sit back and enjoy rather than compile notes for. A great array of flavours and a memorable character. That’s a personal view as is the score that follows.