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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Hazelburn 12 year old (bottled 2009, 09/335 code)

On Monday I reviewed the very good OB bourbon cask 10 year old Hazelburn. Today it's the sherry cask-driven 12 year old Hazelburn, which actually preceded the 10 year old on the market, time-wise. This particular batch was from the first year that Hazelburn 12 hit the shelves. I tasted it alongside the current 10 year old. They are two very different whiskies.

Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Hazelburn
Region: Campbeltown
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: all, or mostly, ex-sherry casks
Bottle code: 09/335
Outturn: 3900 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No
(from a sample swap with Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail. Thank you, Jordan!)

Its color is almost maroon-brown. The nose is cloaked in big rubbery sherry. Some musty dunnage and definite dosage of peat. Dark cherries and milk chocolate meet a heavy green leafy note (parsley?). The palate is woody rather than winey. In fact, it's very woody. Beneath the tree bark and bitter pulp, there are hints of anise, soil and dried herbs. Hot and sweet. On the finish it's wood-run spice, char and bitterness. Lime candy. Sweet. Long but flat.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or <1tbsp water per 30mL whisky
The nose improves a little. There's dried herbs, honey, golden raisins, dried berries. The sherry is quieter and nuttier. Bits of earth and peat. At first the palate feels better, but then the violent tannins kick in, stomping down the herbs and lemon candy sweetness. It finishes tannic, sour, bitter and peppery.

I was going to say this feels like a denser, greener, uglier version of GlenDronach 12, but the spirit is so hidden that this could be any single malt abused by questionable sherry casks. The smothered distillate was from the first Hazelburn runs, but who knows what that would've, could've, should've tasted like. What does show is a significant quantity of peat. But the peat doesn't even feel like it fits in this odd soup.

Dropping this expression and tuning up the bourbon cask 10 year old were wise decisions by the Springbank folks. Of course, that's not the popular opinion. Serge liked this whisky, and 98.6% of whiskybase voters gave it higher scores than I did. But Jordan's take is similar to mine. And we're right.

Availability - a few dozen specialty whisky retailers
Pricing - $90-$105 US, $55-$85 (ex-VAT)
Rating - 73

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