It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are, there comes a point where a bottle of Scotch whisky is so valuable that the very idea of opening it becomes asinine. Many of the oldest and rarest expressions are considered collectibles; if not, commodities in a portfolio. The House of Hazelwood, launched earlier this year by one of Scotch whisky’s leading families, appears intent on changing that.
This new name in whisky is owned by one of the oldest: the Gordon family, which counts Glenfiddich, The Balvenie and the ethereal ghost distillery of Ladyburn within its portfolio. The family boasts one of the most extensive and coveted collections of casks in the industry.
While Glenfiddich and The Balvenie enjoy global recognition and coveted releases of their own, the House of Hazelwood is a vessel for the family to showcase the rarities and oddities within its warehouses. Limited to as few as 74 bottles and as old as 58 years, these releases are vanishingly rare yet are priced — between £950 ($1,120) and £4,900 ($5,780) — at a relatively approachable level.
For those rightly thinking that is still a lot of money, consider this: these are the oldest and rarest stocks from one of Scotch whisky’s most successful and longest-standing families. Compare that to The Macallan 30 Year Old, which is widely available, released annually and priced at $4,000. The House of Hazelwood, and by definition the Gordon family, has taken a different path, dialing down the prestige and focusing on the liquid.
Its first collection debuted in the spring of 2022 and consisted of eight whiskies. The Autumn Collection, also made up of eight whiskies, follows on from its successful debut and is available directly through the House of Hazelwood.
What sets these whiskies apart from others in the same price category is not just their rarity, but their individuality. Each release is the first and last of its kind and was borne from a rare mix of ultra-aged whisky and experimental maturation.
The Autumn Collection has been split into two categories: The Charles Gordon Collection and The Legacy Collection. The former is reserved for only the most exceptional releases, including the aforementioned 58 Year Old. The Legacy Collection is, naturally, the less esteemed of the two but is in no way mass produced (its most prevalent whisky, The Lowlander, has a run of 432 bottles).
The Autumn Collection is made up entirely of blends, the art of taking whiskies from different distilleries and mixing them together to make something greater than the sum of their parts. No distillery names appear on the front of the bottles, but the sweet and floral notes of Speyside (where the family makes most of its whisky) feature prominently.
House of Hazelwood marketing director Jonathan Gibson, said: “Our Autumn Collection speaks not only to the breadth and depth of the inventory that we are privileged to work with but also to the character of those family members who built the stocks over the course of generations. These are truly remarkable liquids; the consequence of remarkable thinking, of brave decision-making and the luxury of time that private family ownership brings.”
We tried four releases from the Autumn Collection and have provided tasting notes below.
House of Hazelwood Autumn Collection Tasting Notes
The Next Chapter, 50 Year Old, 45.3%, 157 bottles
This whisky spent the last 10 years of its life in an active ex-bourbon barrel and that is evident on both the nose and palate. It is wonderfully vibrant for a whisky of its age. A mixture of toffee and vanilla extract mixed in with a hint of pine needles. On the palate, you get less of the sweetness and more of that active wood. It offers a long finish with baked apples and hazelnuts coming through towards the end. An accomplished whisky in its own right and a superb example of a 50 Year Old.
The Unknown, 44 Year Old, 43.4%, 143 bottles
Distilled in 1978 and blended in 1989, this blend has been marrying together for over three decades in a single sherry butt. That has given the liquid a deeply sweet profile. Boiled sweets and orange sherbert on the nose. On the palate, it has a silky texture with notes of butterscotch and a hint of lemon. The wood is far more evident in this blend compared to the 50 Year Old, but the sweetness keeps it in check.
The Eight Grain, 40 Year Old, 48.5%, 384 bottles
A remarkable whisky made up of liquids taken from all eight of Scotland’s closed and active grain distilleries. Massively underrepresented in Scotland, grain whiskies can accomplish tremendous complexity at this age. This has all the hallmarks of a vintage blend with butterscotch, banana and tropical fruits. A silky texture on the palate with only the faintest notes of wood, even at cask strength. Undoubtedly the pick of the four we sampled.
A Breath of Fresh Air, 37 Year Old, 46.4%, 417 bottles
Light on the nose with peppermint, summer grass and fresh flowers. Delicate spice on the palate with the zing of fresh pineapple chunks. A dry mouthfeel with a healthy bit of wooded character in the finish. A lively blend with a set character.
The House of Hazelwood Autumn Collection is available from House of Hazelwood. For more information, visit houseofhazelwood.com