...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Hazelburn and Longrow twins! Same age, same year, same cask type.

Like me, my friend Matt W. is a Springbank fan. Unlike me, he actually reels in Springbank bottlings from around the planet and then opens 'em up. I think I've received samples of all of them and for that I am very thankful.

He brought a pair of cask strength bottlings to a recent whisky event. Both distilled in 2007. Both nine years of age. Both matured in Sauternes hogsheads. One Hazelburn and one Longrow. This past weekend I decided to set the siblings against each other...

Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Hazelburn
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 9 years (December 2007 - September 2017)
Maturation: "First Fill Sauternes" and, judging by the outturn, a hogshead
Alcohol by Volume: 56.9%
Limited Bottling: 252

Of the four single malts produced by Springbank's owners, Hazelburn lands in fourth place, for me. That's not an insult since Hazelburn is still better than two-thirds of all Scotch malt brands. I haven't had a terrible Hazelburn, but I also haven't had a great one. So I'm wishy-washy on them overall, even though the triple-distillation approach should appeal to my palate.

Surprisingly available in the US, today's Hazelburn was three months short of its 10th birthday when bottled, and has a not-unreasonable ABV in its youth.

Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Longrow
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 9 years (November 2007 - October 2017)
Maturation: "Fresh Sauternes Hogsheads", probably four or five
Alcohol by Volume: 56.3%
Limited Bottling: 1134

Whereas Hazelburn is Springbank's Lowland-type malt, unpeated and distilled three times, Longrow is the Islay stand-in, heavily peated and distilled twice. Though I am unsold on the entire Longrow Red winey series, I did enjoy the now-old 14yo Burgundy Wood release as well as a Shiraz cask from Open Day 2010. Still, straight up all-bourbon-cask Longrow is one of the best things (ignoring the 10yo 100proof).

Today's Longrow was bottled exclusively for the Springbank Society. It falls only one month short of 10 years and its ABV is very similar to that of the Hazelburn.

There's the setup. Here's the tasting.


Hazelburn - Flower blossoms, oranges, lemons and cardamom. Toasted nuts in caramel. A slight dunnage note. Definitely a mossiness to it. With time, there are larger notes of yeast and cereal grains, as well as vanilla.
Longrow - It's....almost identical at first. Flowers and citrus. Hints of vanilla and caramel. Slightly peatier. More wort and salt. But it gets more expressive with time, picking up more moss and iodine.

Hazelburn - Heat and sweet. Salt. Golden raisins, gobs of honey, lemon juice and apricots. Cardamom and cinnamon. Paper smoke and moss.
Longrow - Sweeter arrival, but with less heat. Similar honey/lemon/apricot note, but milder. It has its own oranges + cayenne pepper + peat moss + earth note. The peat reads much much quieter than its 50ppm malting level.

Hazelburn - Here's the cayenne pepper, along with honey and apricots. It's plenty winey, but the sweetness gets gentler with time. Hints of smoke and tangy limes.
Longrow - Less wine here than in the Hazelburn. Less heat too. It's tangier, peatier, with plenty of honey and pepper.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1.5tsp water per 30mL whisky

Hazelburn - Less wine, more grain, at first. Simple citrus. Toasted oak spice. Then vanilla, sawdust and mint leaves as it trends towards American whiskey.
Longrow - Orange oil and toasty peat. Lemon peel, orange pixy stix and citronella candles.

Hazelburn -
A very easy drink. Better mouthfeel with this dilution, milder sweetness. Hint of bitterness. Limes, lemons and moss.
Longrow - Better mouthfeel on this one too. Calmer sweetness, but perkier pepper. More bitterness and smoke.

Hazelburn -
Smoke, limes and sugar.
Longrow - Sweet citrus, black pepper and peat moss.

This is yet another Hazelburn that reads peated, even though its barley was not. Perhaps it's tough to scrub the phenolic residues out of the stills, thus the Hazelburn runs pick up some elements in that part of the process. The good news is, it helped out here, giving the whisky an extra dimension. The first fill cask and its wine are active throughout. I enjoy the imparted fruit, since it goes well with the 3x-distilled malt. It's a bit too sticky sweet here and here, but time and water fix that. I like the palate better when diluted, but prefer the nose when neat.

The Longrow is less peaty than expected, but I often find Longrow's peat mysterious. This lower peat register brings the two whiskies closer together in style on the nose. Again, time separates them. The earth, pepper and iodine show up, countering the wine casks. The two sides (Longrow vs Wine) cooperate more than clash, most of the time. I might like it better neat, but it dilutes well.

I prefer the Longrow due to the willpower of its grungier spirit. Perhaps it was served well by having multiple casks in the mix. I am not a big fan of Sauternes casks, but since they both had full maturations rather than finishes, the end results were usually light on weird messy sweetness. But drinkers who hate even the mention of wine-cask-matured whiskies should stay away from the Hazelburn.

HAZELBURN 9yo 2007 single Sauternes cask
Availability - America, somewhere
Pricing - $115ish
Rating - 82

LONGROW 9yo 2007 Sauternes casks
Availability - Springbank Society only
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86