Monday, March 7, 2016

Whisky Review: Hazelburn 8 Year Cask Strength

Hazelburn is Springbank's unpeated, triple-distilled single malt. While official releases have been fairly rare, a few of these red stripe Cask Strength bottlings have hit the market. A 54% version was available in Europe and this 56.5% version was released in the United States. Unfortunately the bottle is almost completely lacking in information but I was hoping that it would be something like the Hazelburn Bourbon Single Cask I tried.

As with most cask strength whiskies I review, I made dilutions at various strengths to see how the spirit changed.

Hazelburn 8 Year Cask Strength 45%

Nose: lots of young, fresh malt, corn, vegetation, peat in the background, plastic, light oak, vanilla

Taste: malt sweetness up front that fades towards the back, herbal/spice kick around the middle, oak tannins and peat at the back

Finish: caramel, oak tannins, peat, malt residue

Hazelburn 8 Year Cask Strength 50%

Nose: basically the same as at 45%, but with slightly greater intensity, more refined malt and oak, plus citrus peel and vanilla cake frosting

Taste: amplified sweetness, roughly the same overall, maybe a little citrus and salinity around the middle

Finish: same as 45%

Hazelburn 8 Year Cask Strength 56.5%

Nose: malt with a toasted edge, corn, green/new make, pine, floral/herbal, light farm-y peat, vanilla, Jolly Rancher candy/pineapple, baking spices, cardamom, plastic

Taste: malt sweetness throughout, thick bourbon cask fruit/berry esters, barrel influence (caramel, light oak tannins, char), light peat at the back

Finish: hot, malt, grainy, green, light peat, gentle oak, floral

Much like Longrow 10 Year 100 Proof, I am genuinely baffled why Springbank decided to bottle this. It feel raw and underdone, without much complexity. While it opened up a bit at the very end of the bottle, the slog to get there was less pleasant. Additionally, the peat influence that seems to pervade this release is extremely unrepresentative of the rest of the Hazelburn line, which means that many who purchased this whisky will have bought something quite different from what they were expecting. I've seen some arguments about the phenols from Springbanks other peated malts creeping into Hazelburn, all of the other Hazelburn single malts I've tried have been peat-free, so this seems like an aberration rather than an inherent flaw in their process.

While I know few people who enjoyed it, I for one am not sad to be done with this whisky that I paid entirely too much money for. A teenage bourbon cask Speysider would have been better and almost certainly cheaper. There are a few bottles of this Hazelburn left in the States, but the only ones I can find available online are over $120, which is pure fantasy territory.

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