This is one of the beefiest Hazelburns you’re likely to encounter. Not just because of the cask strength presentation (actually only about 4% higher than most other standard Hazelburn editions), but because there is something raw and back-to-the-earth about it. This is tradition, harnessed and yoked and being willfully pulled along in the new age (against the protestations of the groaning old Victorian machinery that provides the heartbeat of this brilliant distillery). Such is the lifeblood of the Springbank distillery where Hazelburn is produced, and such is the true allure for the whisky aficionado.
To be honest, as a brand Hazelburn is far less exciting to me than the other lines running off the stills at Springbank, but that’s not to say the quality is in any way subpar. The distillery simply produces a style of malt that is very amenable to the influence of peat, and when that element is no longer a part of the equation it somehow seems to sum up to less than a whole. This is, I concede, a personal bias based on relative experience.
The ‘rundlets’ and ‘kilderkins’ from which this age-stated malt takes its name are small, lesser known barrel sizes historically used in the maturation of ales, wines and whiskies. To put it in a contemporary context, this is a similar enterprise to what Laphroaig does with their Quarter Casking. The use of smaller barrels equates to greater wood spirit/wood interplay, which results in accelerated maturation. Makes sense. And to give credit where credit is due…with a novel marketing angle such as this at their disposal it’s a credit to Springbank that they maintained an age statement when I think many of their contemporaries would have launched this as an NAS expression.
Nose: Very naked. Dusty grains. Vanilla. Earthy notes and rye bread. Some very farmy notes that remind of being near a grain mill. Still a faint touch of peat, irrespective of the ‘non-peated’ angle. Probably simply cask leeching from barrels previously used for Springbank or Longrow distillate. Dark chocolate. Some nice gentle spices.
Palate: Spicy, peppery arrival. Bolder than expected, to be honest (in a good way!). The grains and wood are very much at the fore here. And very clean, I should add. Some leather. Again…slightly earthy. Maybe a touch of anise. Grape skins.
Thoughts: Clean, nice and flawless, but sort of…well…tough to get excited about this one. My mind immediately hearkens to what this could have been as a Springbank or Longrow. Unfair of me, I know, but true. A nice variation on a theme, even though I think I still prefer the 12 year old.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt