Monday, February 3, 2014

Whisky Review: Hazelburn 12 Year

Hazelburn is Springbank's unpeated, triple-distilled line of whisky. The first batch was distilled in 1997 and the 12 Year is currently the oldest standard expression of the line put out by the distillery.

Hazelburn 12 Year

Nose: juicy raisins/sherry, fudgy dates, light mint/menthol, very light oak, hard to find the malt, creamy vanilla, more integrated and malty with time - dusty grain and burn sugar. After adding a few drops of water, tons of caramel comes out alongside more malt, while the sherry retreats, after more time in the glass it settles down into a more standard Hazelburn mode - some salty bacon and floral notes pop out.

Taste: raisin/sherry sweetness throughout, prickles of pepper and oak tannins come in mid-palate, core of clean malt sugar, coffee beans and burnt sugar at the back. After dilution, there is more barrel/caramel sweetness, sherry tucks underneath the other flavors, a lot more wood comes out, at the back its falls apart a bit - sour/purple, dank sherry, but balanced with some salty oatmeal.

Finish: sherry and malt bounce back and forth, light oak tannins, slightly vegetal/malty

This was not one of my favorites. While it improved a bit near the end with some oxidation, it never really settled into a good groove. While the malt was largely overwhelmed by the sherry, it didn't fit well into the sherry bomb slot either. I don't know if these just weren't particularly great sherry casks or what, but they didn't have the freshness that I would hope for from a relatively young whisky.

It's just my own tastes, but I'd really prefer it if Springbank backed off on the sherry with Hazelburn. The spirit on its own is just so good that much more adornment mostly distracts from what makes it so good. Some ex-bourbon cask whiskies are kind of boring and need the extra flavors that sherry can bring to them, but Hazelburn is more than capable of standing on its own. I'd much rather have a pure ex-bourbon 12 year old that would let the spirit shine.

Capping things, Hazelburn 12 Year is incredibly expensive in the United States. The only place I've ever seen with a halfway decent price is The Party Source (where I bought my bottle) and they don't ship anymore. More often it's over $80 (all the way up to $122 in Oregon, which is just insane), which is hard to justify. Unfortunately shipping from the UK is also pretty expensive now, so that's not any better. There really isn't a good way to get it from where I'm at.


  1. Haven't had this but I agree with your comment on dialing down the sherry on the Springbank 10yo. The one I had 1.5 years back (orange on black label) was way too sweet, but got fixed with some Laphroaig. And yes, it does seem like the Springbank importer screws us, I wish they changed the company.

    1. Springbank actually sort of changed their importer in 2012, but that was simply used as an excuse for another price hike (everything went up by at least $10 a bottle last year).

      I don't really understand the strategy, because Springbank isn't particularly well known - when your cheapest whisky is over $55 in a lot of places, it's going to be hard to bring in new customers.