Whisky Review #111: Hazelgrove 1998 14 Years Old

Hazelgrove is a name that not many would have heard of, but rest assured that its origins are far more well known than the name lets on.

As is the common practice in the whisky industry, casks get sold on to independent bottlers and sometimes the cask comes from a relatively famous distillery. While most of these casks can then be bottled using the same name, sometimes the distillery adds in a clause to the sale which prohibits the independent bottler from using the distillery or brand name on the bottle.

As such, independent bottlers have to get creative and provide these expressions with a name which alludes to the distillery or region of origin without giving much away. Some names are more opaque (Speyside’s Finest or Secret Speyside), while others provide more clues to the distillery of origin (Family Owned Distillery or in this case, Hazelgrove).

This particular expression is sourced from Springbank distillery and is derived from one of the three central pillars of the distillery’s production, Hazelburn. When the cask was sold to Meadowside Blending (the owners of The Maltman brand), they were probably sold it with the provision that they weren’t allowed to use Hazelburn on the label. This would then have led them to form their own name of Hazelgrove.

This particular expression was distilled in 1998, matured in a single sherry cask for 14 years before being bottled at a standard abv of 46% for The Maltman with an outturn of 331 bottles.

So, let’s jump right into the review!

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Hazelgrove 1998 14 Years Old (Bottled by The Maltman)

Hazelgrove 1998 14 Years Old (Bottled by The Maltman, 46% abv)

Colour: Teak

Nose: Initial entry presents the typical Campbeltown style salinity and rich red fruits that one would associate with a Hazelburn. Liquorice, raspberries, apricot jam, ginger and thyme emerge over time and are complemented by hints of cough syrup, slight menthol, barley sugar, cinnamon powder and hints of oak. (22/25)

Palate: Initial entry presents a relatively sweet and rich dram which exhibits mellow and rounded characteristics. The typical coastal salinity is complemented by slight vegetal hints, thyme, liquorice, barley sugar and some savoury sweetness. With time, ginger, red fruits and something which is reminiscent of wet clothes drying on a clothesline emerge. (23/25)

Finish: Long, lingering and spicy on the finish, with the liquorice, ginger, oak and vegetal notes becoming more dominant in contrast with the fading red fruits. A final whack of sea salt brings things to a close. (22/25)

Balance: An exceptionally well balanced dram which is absolutely delicious. This one exhibits a great balance of sweet, salty, vegetal and drying hints in equal measure and the mouthfeel is rather oily initially but becomes drying over time. A proper treat! (22/25)

Rating: 89/100

This expression was savoured at The Elysian Whisky Bar in early January this year and while I’m not sure if there is any left, one would do well to make a trip to Fitzroy and pay them a visit in order to check out their exceptional collection. I’m sure Kelvin and Yao will ensure that you have a great time.

Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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