Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 13

13 12 2015

I could have sworn that I had read or heard somewhere that the 2015 KWM Whisky Advent Calendar would contain no duplicate whiskies from the 2014 calendar, which I’m sure was a logistical challenge due to the so-so availability of mini-bottles, but which I thought was an excellent choice to maintain the intrigue for repeat buyers.  So far this year we’ve had a couple of distillery overlaps, but zero identical bottles, as was expected.  But that ended tonight, as 2015’s Day 13 whisky was strangely the exact same as 2014’s Day 13 whisky:  the Hazelburn 12 Year Single Malt from Campbeltown, Scotland’s least prevalent whisky region in the southwest corner of the country.  I will not try to hide my disappointment at this development, particularly since I was sort of meh about this scotch last year; of all the ones to repeat in the calendar, why this one?  Hazelburn is a relatively new line of whiskies from the Springbank Distillery, which is by far the largest and most important remaining in Campbeltown.  This lineup was first distilled in 1997 and features triple distillation as its calling card:  the whisky is run through old copper stills three separate times during distillation, with each run removing more and more impurities and heightening the proof level of the spirit.  Removing impurities isn’t exactly the distilling goal of scotch whisky (if you removed almost all of them and ended up with a nearly pure spirit, you’d basically have vodka), as what keeps the spirit impure is the flavour and character of the land and grain, but the extra distillation results in a lighter, more subtle dram that is Hazelburn’s signature style.


The 12-year maturation in sherry casks gives this scotch a lovely deep golden colour, and I am an admitted fan of the Oakland Raider-style silver and black label design (with the aforementioned three stills front and centre).  The nose was a swirling melange of rubber, chemical, peaches and cream, popcorn kernels, char and citrus, with the fruit notes mostly overtaken by the industrial ones.  As I remembered from last year, the Hazelburn 12 comes across as heavily wooded when you taste it, like the barrels used were strongly toasted or something, as smoke, hickory and ash are at the flavour forefront, with banana and cantaloupe fruit, honey, vanilla and varnish sneaking through the oak wall at various points ahead of a dusty, papery, fiery finish.  Looking back at the tasting notes in last year’s writeup, I see a number of similarities emerge, although my notes are clearly less identical than the bottles are.  Let us hope this will be the last time we’re able to do this kind of head-to-head 2014 vs. 2015 comparison.  Bit of a letdown night overall, I have to say.

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 13

13 12 2014

I have a Christmas party to attend tonight, so for the first time this Advent it’s afternoon whisky time!  Today’s whisky closes the loop on the scotch-producing regions of Scotland:  we’ve already had whiskies from 4 of the 5 regions (Speyside, Highland, Lowland, Islay), and this one hails from the lone remaining region, Campbeltown, a peninsula found on Scotland’s southwest coast.  This used to be a high-production area for scotch, but it has gradually fallen from prominence, to the point now where only three distilleries remain:  Springbank, Glengyle and Glen Scotia.  Springbank is by far the best known of the three and produces whiskies under three different labels, one of which is today’s feature scotch.  The Hazelburn Campbeltown 12 Year Single Malt is unpeated and triple-distilled, a production method common in Irish whiskies but rarely seen in scotch.  It spends its aging time in sherry casks (unclear whether they’re Oloroso or not, so I can’t get righteously indignant) and retails for $98.

I need some feedback on this one - have you had it?  What do you think?

I need some feedback on this one – have you had it? What do you think?

I can’t decide whether I like this whisky or not.  On the one hand, it has a beautiful straw-golden colour and a sense of individuality that sets it apart from the other drams in the calendar.  On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to handle its 46% alcohol as well as most of the other whiskies, coming across slightly fiery and harsh at the edges and remaining steadfastly gut-warming on the finish.  The nose, though restrained, has a bit of everything, from spice, celery and copper to apple juice, sulphur and dried grass.  Each sip is initially predominated by alcohol, roasted oak and mesquite, but somewhere in the midpalate more interesting notes of anise, dried citrus, coffee and honey emerge.  I hate to leave a post ambivalent about anything, but I really don’t know how I feel about this scotch, other than happy to add some Campbeltown to my repertoire.  Until tomorrow!

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