By Richard Thomas
Unveiled at a conference in Cannes several months ago and launched in Charles de Gaulle Airport Duty Free in February 2016, the thing that drew my attention to House of Hazelwood was the decidedly moderate amount of buzz it has received since. I made a note of it at the time, the kind of thing I do when my hands are full (as they often are) for things I need to address later. Often that turns out to be a good thing, because it allows me to develop some perspective in the meantime, as was the case here with said lack of buzz.
The line is inspired by Janet Sheed Roberts, a Grant family member who passed away a few years ago and lived in the art deco Hazelwood House near Glenfiddich (not to be confused with Hazelwood Houses in Glasgow and Devon, which is what you will find when you go Googling). The design of the labeling and boxes are meant to evoke that era, and hence look like the kind of thing that could have sat on the desk of David Suchet’s Poirot during the early seasons of that TV series.
The blends draw strongly on Girvan and Kininvie, but also on Roberts’ private stocks. “Janet Sheed Roberts was an elegant woman and I wanted to create a whisky that would celebrate her extraordinary spirit,” said Brian Kinsman, Master Blender at William Grant & Sons.
After a marriage in Portuguese oak and bottling at 40% ABV, House of Hazelwood 18 Year Old has the look of a full-bodied white wine: lustrous pale yellow. The nose is akin to an especially fruity apple pie, because it smacks of apple sweetness, seasoned by a generous helping of bourbon oak-style vanilla.
On the palate, the liquid manages to pull off a balance between a feel of creamy weight and a silky texture. Flavor aside, just the feel of the whisky is a lovely thing to have on the tongue. The vanilla and sweet, wet tobacco notes of bourbon are there, alongside a truly yummy, coconut cookie-like sweetness, plus the barest pinch of dry woodiness. A little of that dry oaky spice lingers on into the finish, which is mild, but lasting in its warmth.
Elegance was what they were shooting for in Hazelwood, and that mark was achieved in the 18 Year Old. It’s a refined and graceful sipper.
House of Hazelwood goes for £50 for a 50 cl bottle.