After Glen Scotia [WLP] comes Springbank Open Day! Peeps have been queuing outside the Springbank shop since 8pm the night before, seeing out the early morning rain and seeing in the early morning light. They all look pretty fresh considering, aside from infamous local bartender, Smacky.
Rested and rocking up fresh with breakfast in my belly some 12 hours later, I feel a little sheepish, joining friends near the front of the queue for the remaining two-hour wait for the shop to open. And for what? The hope of [easy/free money in the form of] a 21yo, a 25yo, perhaps even a 30yo? There’s no indication that the shop will render any such golden nuggets at this time. Frankly, it’s a relief [to me at least] when the news comes of ‘just’ the usual/daily cage bottlings, though even these offerings have seen rapid inflation in price/value on the secondary market in the last year or two. There’s clear disappointment and frustration from many who have spent time and money in expectation of a payout. It’s not a pretty sight, a scene more typical of Islay’s Feis Ile than here in Campbeltown.
Others at the back of the queue have now joined the festival bottling queue instead. Again, no need. With 6000 20cl bottles available, we are reassured there will be plenty to go around.
In the meantime, I have another breakfast to attend and it’s one of my favourites.
More than a quarter of this year’s Hazelburn Breakfast attendees put their hands up as first-timers to the festival. Around half in attendance are also Springbank Society Members.
Only a few years ago, there were around 4-5 featured bottlings in the Hazelburn’s range. With only two weeks of Hazelburn production a year, representation of Springbank’s triple distilled spirit currently boils down to just the 10yo and the [13-15yo] ‘Sherry Wood’, alongside occasional society bottlings. As a result, forming a line-up of 6 Hazelburn’s is no mean feat. As a result, we have some treats.
To begin with, it can surely be only one – the classic 10.
[Springbank] Hazelburn 10yo  Ob. 100% bourbon barrels 46% WB84.77 [WF]90 Dramble87 WLP185 WLP288
- N: Light on lime/lemon juice, melon, smooth yoghurt, genteel barley juice, no char/phenols – clean soft yet never thin.
- T&F: Creamy barley, lychee, brioche,… plenty of tasty curiosities along the way through.
- C: The 10yo is benchmark Hazelburn, as it is for Springbank, Ardbeg, Talisker, Ledaig, GlenMo,… I find it doesn’t necessarily get better as it ages, just different.
Scores 88 points
[Springbank] Hazelburn 2007/2019 11yo Ob. for Springbank Society Members [1314 bts] 54.2% WB88.24
I thought I would have tried this at the Hazelburn Breakfast in 2019 [WLP], but not so. Back then, the 2007/2019 Society bottling was a 10yo from a refill sauternes hogshead. This 2007/2019 Society Bottling comes from re-charred bourbon hogsheads.
- N: Light quince/strawberry jam, toasted brioche, damp cloth, biscuit, [light & white] vanilla ice cream,….
- T: Fruit jam over light smoky light barley funk. Hazelburn can often find its way into ex-Springbank casks, hence phenol traces [and more] in some expressions.
- F: A butyric touch on the turn, more quince juice/jam over grassy oozing barley,… creamy fruity slightly coppery. This one is all about the spirit without overt vanilla nor oak/previous contents. Hallelujah!
- C: Springbank knows how to make whisky, as if we needed a reminder. Hazelburn – the dirty Auchentoshan – in ex-bourbon casks is a winner in my book, though plenty of peeps remain divided over bourbon vs sherry action on Hazelburn’s distillate.
Scores 87 points
Whilst the queue for the festival bottles builds & builds outside, inside, we get to actually try the stuff, hoping all the time that there will indeed be enough bottles to go around. Indeed there were and even with the possibility of purchasing extra bottles after 4:30pm.
[Springbank] Hazelburn 15yo  Ob. Springbank Open Day 2022 [2088 bts] 57.2% [20cl btl code #22/95] WB87.98
x3 Marsala, x1 refill bourbon hoggies are credited.
- N: Creamy yoghurts and raisiny biscuit with hints towards an Irish tropical [stone fruit] fruitiness.
- T: Candy string lychee fruitiness with a thicker creaminess, the marsala casks pulling this one away from its usual stomping ground. Furthermore, I find this to be another expression with some residual ex-Springbank cask peatiness/smokiness.
- F: Slightly butyric [back throat/palate] on the turn that precedes a fairly long milky [milk of magnesia] buckwheat flour finish.
- C: Not totally sure about this one on first contact but Terri is convinced. It’s a touch Benriach-y [cooking with casks] for me. but no doubt I’d come round to it once it had settled. Still, the quality is very high, so it’s more subjective quibbles once again.
Scores [+/-] 87 points
[Springbank] Hazelburn 21yo  Ob. [3600 bts] 46% WB89.79
At the Campbeltown Malts Festival in 2019, we got to try three 21yo cask samples:
,… of which would help make up Springbank’s first core global release of a 21yo Hazelburn [in 2021/22]. I was lucky enough to try a batch sample of the then-unreleased 21yo in 2021 [WLP86] at The Whisky Show. The cask makeup of the now-released official 21yo is currently 70% bourbon and 30% sherry.
- N: The key note here is [slightly under-ripe] pineapple within the tropical fruits smorgasbord, old wooden school cloakrooms, a shoe box, peach melba yoghurt, fruity dusty yet fresh putty,.. and some sulphur to come?
- T: Bourbon first,… fruitiness building,… casks and spirit jostling for position,… liquorice > aniseed,….. distant barley oil fruitiness behind some sulphur [initially],…
- F: ,… [not overbearing] greasy slick heat at the back of the throat,… A few drops of water help with cohesion.
- C: Slight painting by numbers on the cask side. Otherwise, decent. Those lucky enough to enjoy a bottle will be better able to give deeper insights over time.
Scores 86 points
[Springbank] Hazelburn 2006/2022 15yo Ob. 100% oloroso casks [9000 bts] 54.2% [btl #22/75] WB88.99
- N: Toffee into fudge straight up, and with a salty crisp or two. With an assured simple depth, overall, a solid pleaser.
- T: Salty toffee once again, the oloroso seemingly helping to provide a savoury herbal sweetness that hints at syrup.
- F: A sensation range hits the back top palate with some aniseed heat and a slightly tacky/film forming, easily cleared by using the 10yo as mouthwash, we jest.
- C: Not magical, but a highly accomplished soft sherry bomb. Perhaps 15 years is as old as Hazelburn needs to be? Discuss.
Scores 87 points
[Springbank] Hazelburn 22yo Un-Ob. BTB Welcome Dram 100% sherry cask/ref #09/550-21 47.9% WBX
Featuring on Springbank’s £250 VIP tour, of which this is the first dram served in Springbank’s new bar. I’m not sure whether this is/will become an official bottling or not. BTB stands for ‘barley to bottle’ by the way.
- N: This is ‘different level’ Hazelburn! Dusty fudge & choc ice [thin on the choc] eaten on an old Chesterfield,….. here’s another dram I could write a book about [but won’t].
- T: Smoky wisps interspersed with long-ago-applied furniture polish, I find this one to be dusty yet with some slicknesses, nuttiness, and with a liqueur-like quality from the old & rare realm,…
- F: ,… that runs into sherbet and [pink] candy chews [Refreshers too].
- C: We are nearing 1960s [G&M] Strathisla territory here. The casks talk but the spirit is always in the picture.
Scores 90 points
Whilst the 10yo continues to rock, the 22yo is a special treat. Do I dare ask the price?
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