Drinks blogger James Robertson reviews the first releases from new whisky firm House of Hazelwood.
RECENTLY, a new business arm of the renowned distilling family the Gordons launched its first collection of rare and aged whiskies. Named after the family’s home in Dufftown, Speyside, House of Hazelwood will provide whisky enthusiasts and collectors with a chance to buy limited bottles of rare whiskies.
Marketing director Jonathan Gibson said: “Unlike most Scotch whisky producers, our business carries with it no requirement to release whiskies of a given age or a given style on a set date. This is a collection of individual spirits, representing unique casks, trials that have taken place over the years, and combinations that may never be seen again.
“Central to this is the philosophy that the maturing stock is ready when it’s ready. The inventory is regularly sampled, with meticulous records kept of its progress. Only once it reaches its peak will it be bottled – and of course, in a world of individuals, once it’s gone it is truly gone. The whiskies carried within the collection are unique and irreplaceable – single snapshots in the long history of Scotch whisky.”
I have been lucky in the past to taste aged whiskies from the 1960s, but not for some time. So it was indeed a real privilege to be have the opportunity to try four of the first editions to be released. These were:
The Lost Estate, 43-Year-Old Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
This is a blend of grain whiskies from two closed distilleries providing a glimpse into a style of whisky from a bygone age. It has a lovely light gold colour with a hint of orange peel and pear drops on the nose. Sweet barley, bananas and cream with a citrus note coat the palate with a long lingering finish.
The Spirit of Scotland, 46-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky
To commemorate the oldest recorded reference to Scotch whisky within the 1494 exchequer rolls of Scotland, this whisky was blended in 1994. Since then it has lain for a further 28 years in cask, developing into a wonderful blended Scotch whisky. The whisky itself is bright gold in colour with a baked apple and Demerara sugar note on the nose. On the palate there is a sweet toffee note with just a touch of smoke and an integrated finish.
The Cask Trials, 53-Year-Old Single Grain Scotch Whisky
Distilled in 1968, this whisky has spent its life maturing in a single sherry butt for 53 years. The time in the cask makes it hard to think that this is a grain whisky. Dark brooding Sienna brown in colour, the nose does not disappoint with a rich note of dried apricots, dates, and raisins. The finish is long with all those initial fruit flavours to the fore.
Blended at Birth, 56-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky
It is not often that a malt and grain whisky is distilled, married together at the start, and then placed in oak barrels. This unusual blend has spent 56 years integrating in oak of which half of that time was in American oak. Deep gold in colour there is a wonderful mix of dried fruit, almonds, and orange zest on the nose, while on the palate there is a lovely balance of fruit cake, baked banana, and sweet toffee.
The whiskies are available online at www.houseofhazelwood.com, as well as through retailers including Hedonism Wines, Royal Mile Whiskies, Davidoff of London, and The Whisky Shop.
Read more of James’s wine, beer, and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.