House of Hazelwood Wants to Redefine Rare Scotch Blends

“It’s hard to imagine another whisky company creating a whisky like this.”

June 29, 2023 6:54 am
Eight bottles from House of Hazelwood
Eight bottles from House of Hazelwood, a new rare Scotch brand
House of Hazelwood

What we’re drinking: A variety of rare Scotch from House of Hazelwood, a new-ish luxury whisky brand that claims to have “the greatest inventory of aged Scotch whisky held anywhere in the world”

Where they’re from: These blended Scotch whiskies hail from the private collection of the Gordon family — aka the family behind William Grant & Sons (Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, etc.)

Why we’re drinking these: “It’s hard to imagine another whisky company creating a whisky like this,” says Jonathan Gibson, the marketing director for House of Hazelwood. “We’re doing things with a combination of age and innovation that’s really unusual. And that’s because there’s no board or shareholders saying, ‘You shouldn’t do this.’”

Those are some bold claims, but House of Hazelwood (named after the Gordon family’s Dufftown home), which launched in the UK last year and in the United States more recently, has the whisky inventory to back that up. These bottles are crafted from a private collection that’s been built up for more than a century, with most of the stock coming from the 1950s onward. 

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“The hardest thing was to form the inventory,” Gibson admits. “It was built up by different individuals over time, some from the family’s own distilleries, some of it traded stock. Getting a structure around it was challenging. But overall, this is a family that has access to more and a better standard of Scotch than most other people. It’s a very broad and deep collection, and experimental, too.”

And it’s not really about single malts here — these are blends. “Old blends I find drinkable,” Gibson says. “Old single malts are compelling but not always quaffable. With these old blends, you’re getting the sweetness of the grain but also the malt characteristics shining through.”

While you can buy bottles individually, Gibson says most customers so far have bought these four-figure rare expressions as part of a collection. We were sent samples from both the Legacy Collection (slightly younger for whisky enthusiasts) and the Charles Gordon Collection (older and geared toward collectors).

How they taste: Each release has a fairly detailed description of age, cask maturation, region and more (if not always the exact distillery, depending on long-held family agreements — though you could probably figure some out based on the included histories). 

A Singular Blend from House of Hazelwood
A Singular Blend from House of Hazelwood
House of Hazelwood

A few that stood out to us on first sampling:

  • A Singular Blend: The rare blend from the same distillery. “They made both malt and grain there in the 1960s,” Gibson says. “There have been maybe five to 10 distilleries that have ever done that.” Matured for 58 years in American oak, you’ll find a lot of butterscotch, tobacco, leather and dark fruit here. It’s sweet, sour and complex.
  • The Next Chapter: Distilled in 1972 and initially aged in a combination of European and American oak, this blend then had a secondary, 15-year finishing period in ex-bourbon barrels. An unusual journey for a 50-year whisky, this one is quite vibrant and dominated by notes of orange, toffee and citrus.
  • A Trail of Smoke: Delicately peated and 42 years matured, this island (and not exclusively Islay) journey into smoke is actually rather juicy, fruity and almost nuanced, with the smoke present but sort of lingering in the background. There’s a bit of salinity on the finish, but otherwise this is an unexpected and unique take on peated Scotch.
  • The Lowlander: Aged 36 years, this one spotlights the often-overlooked Lowland distilleries. It’s bright (with a hint of salinity), a bit grassy and sweet. 
  • A Breath of Fresh Air: A 37-year-old blended grain whisky that’s spicy but also quite sweet, with hints of burnt caramel and even some menthol.

Fun fact: If you want early access to bottles, you might want to sign up online to become a Hazelwood Keyholder, which promises “members-only releases, invitations to private events and preferential access to new releases.”

Where to buy: Only a few hundred bottles of each expression are ever released. Each one arrives in a gift box and within an individually-numbered decanter. Expect to pay mid-to-high four figures for each individual release, which (at least here) is best ordered directly from House of Hazelwood. A new collection should be out later this year.


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