Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Hazelburn 15 years old and a little surprise too

Hazelburn is the third and latest added variation that is produced at the Springbank Distillery. It seems to me that saving Campbeltown as one of the traditional whisky regions has become a less pressing matter than it once was. Glen Scotia is a healthy operation, and Kilkerran just celebrated the twentieth birthday while going from strength to strength. In the meantime, no less than three new distilleries are announced. One could wonder what relevance remains for Hazelburn.

Hazelburn was first produced in the late 1990s, as an unpeated and triple distilled single malt. The fruity 10 years old standard bottling has rightfully taken its place between the Springbank 10 years old and the Longrow Peated as the flagship expressions of the distillery. But what more lies ahead? 


We have seen some longer matured expressions, like a Hazelburn 21 years old, and every now and then there is a special release. We will taste one today. Also, because we can, I will throw in a cask sample I managed to take home from a distillery visit in January 2024. I have only 1 cl so it will be a modest note, but too nice not to include on this Campbeltown Wednesday.

Hazelburn 2008, 15 years old, bottled at 55,8 % abv


Makeup: This Hazelburn was distilled in June 2008 and put into oloroso sherry casks for 15 years, to be bottled in September 2023 in a batch of 9000 bottles.

General impressions: I poured the sample in the glass and started writing the above introduction. The sherried Hazelburn made it hard for me to keep focusing on the work, just shouting out to me with these delicious raisins, cigar leaves and Asian cuisine aromas. Yes, when sticking the nose in the glass (finally!) it goes into two directions. On the one hand it smells like wet sherry wood. Like when you put the valinch in a cask and some drops squirt out when you take it out of the hole. On the other hand I get hints of Asian spices, like chili chutney. In this form, it just barely manages to stay away from going over to a more sulphury character, and thus is operates on the brink of just being brilliant. Of course, with such delicate spirit, it is mostly cask what we are getting, but there are juicy and fruity notes I attribute to what I know of more unhindered Hazelburn spirit.

Now, enough nosing, let’s do some sipping! On the tongue this Hazelburn is indeed juicy sweet. Very soft and supple actually. But then you swallow. This is where you get a full piece of wood jammed down your throat. I fear, even a little bit too much to my taste. It is balanced, no off note in there, but it is very, very wood driven. Dark chocolate, stale coffee, cigar leaves again. I have to recover a little, but the Hazelburn gives you no time, it keeps on developing and developing in the glass. Mellowing out actually. I put in some drops of water but then it breaks down into a sulphury beast, slightly on the nose, but more so on the finish.

Conclusion: Don’t add water, and let this sherry beast take you for a ride. One of the more left field expressions bottled by Springbank in 2023, and that includes the crazy Springbank Palo Cortado!

Score: 89 points
Disclaimer: taken from a self-bought sample from the Springbank Tasting Pack – November 2023, at the Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown. 

Hazelburn 2002, 20 years old, bottled at 44,5 % abv

Makeup: This Hazelburn was distilled in 2002 and put into a fresh bourbon barrel for 20 years, to be bottled in a bottle with a Barley to Bottle label (picture), but as far as I know never released. There is no Whiskybase entry for it.

General impressions: The contrast with the sherried Hazelburn cannot be bigger. I tasted this in an ice-cold warehouse at Springbank in January of this year, and it already tickled the senses. Now I have a decent warmed up drop in my glass and it shines. Lots of vanilla and candied fruit on the nose, with a touch of ozone as a layer over it. One can easily think of a mature Irish whiskey when nosing this one, which might well be the point with the triple distillation and all.

Here goes my first 0,5 cl sip of it but let me tell you, from that tiny sip you can already deduce this is a fruity animal. But it is certainly not one-dimensional. It brings an interesting menthol note that is closely related to a wood characteristic. Also, on the finish I notice a hoppy trace, making me want to grab a light beer.

Conclusion: Not without flaws, especially the mentholated aspect of it, but interesting to see if Springbank could create a full bourbon expression batch of at least 20 years old. That would be very interesting. Sadly, the production levels of Hazelburn were always low, so the question is how much the team has left to play with. To me, anyway, Hazelburn proudly deserves its own spot in the offerings at Springbank.

Score: 87 points

Disclaimer: sampled with permission during a tour of the Springbank Distillery, January 2024.

Share this on your social media! - and check mine while you're at it :)