May 142015
 

Hazelburn Rundlets & Kilderkins 10 y.o.052

50.1% abv

Score:  86/100

 

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

 Posted by at 10:31 am
Oct 242013
 

Hazelburn 12 y.o.053

46% abv

Score:  86.5/100

 

Mmmm…Springbank Lite.

Settle down, settle down…I ‘m only kidding.  While this may seem like a sound logical assumption, it’s actually quite a stretch.

Hazelburn is one of the three streams flowing from the stills at Springbank, Campbelton’s most recognized distillery.  Springbank, as many of you are likely aware, is famous for producing the old school, malt-heavy and mildly-peaty namesake Springbank line, as well as the more heavily-peated Longrow, and finally the virtually (or possibly even completely) peat-free and triple-distilled Hazelburn.  Yes…triple distilled.  Much like you’ll often find in the Lowland malts or Irish whiskies.  Triple distillation generally maketh for a lighter, cleaner spirit, but you’d be mistaken if approaching this one as comparable to an Auchentoshan, Rosebank or Jameson’s.  There is definitely some heft here.

Hazelburn first ran off the stills in 1997, appearing on store shelves, albeit in limited quantity (I read up on this a little while back, but can’t quite recall the number…think it was 6,000 bottles), as an eight year old expression in 2005.  And while that eight year old was a decent drop, we’re now starting to see what Hazelburn is capable of with a little bit of free rein to grow up and stretch its gangly limbs.  Personally I’m a little bit partial to Springbank’s two beefier older brothers, but I can’t help but smile in recognition of a distillery at the height of its craft.  Springbank is doing it all…doing it traditionally…and doing it well.  From light to heavy, all of their malts are imbued with a sense of identity and quality.  Love it.

I hate to get ahead of myself here, but both the Springbank and Longrow expressions are dynamite at 18 years.  I’ll be waiting for Hazelburn to come of age too.

Nose:  Pleasant…very pleasant.  Lightly creamy and grassy.  A little bit of lemon pepper.  A little ginger and some licorice.  A squeeze of sweet  mandarin and tangerine.  Some dried fruits, nuts and woody notes (definitely sherry casking of some sort).  Still seems to be just the vaguest hint of smoke irrespective of the ‘unpeated’ label that is levied on this one (maybe just cask charring residuals?).  Really good already, but so much potential for additional ageing.

Palate:  Pepper and malty cereal notes.  Grass and grains.  Orange marmalade on toast.  The lightest spread of a very fatty milk chocolate.  Toothpicks.  For a ‘lighter’-styled whisky (yet still surprising in its heft), but still kinda old school, Lowland-ish whisky…I quite like this.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:30 am