The anticipation surrounding any new release from The House of Hazelwood never fails to excite me. Operating independently but under the ownership of the Grant family, who also own The Balvenie and Glenfiddich, House of Hazelwood boasts one of Scotland’s most extensive collections of barrels containing aged grain whisky. Spanning a remarkable seven decades, this collection is shrouded in secrecy, with only a select few privy to its precise contents.
What remains unquestionable, however, is the exceptional provenance and quality of the casks, filled with grain whisky crafted at the family’s Girvan distillery. In an era where Non-Age Statement (NAS) whiskies have proliferated, even within luxury brands, think Macallan, it is noteworthy that within the context of the House of Hazelwood, this new 33-year-old release is considered relatively youthful. Previous expressions have been within the 40 to 50-year range, thus making the prospect of tasting something notably younger quite exciting for me.
The idea for this whisky can be traced back to an enquiry about blending made by the esteemed whisky writer, Dave Broom. Subsequently, House of Hazelwood invited him to create a blended whisky, with the help of Eilidh Muir, a member of their blending team. Dave was entrusted with the evaluation of 40 distinct samples drawn from various casks, the goal being to skillfully assemble a whisky that transcends the sum of its individual components.
Characteristic of House of Hazelwood expressions, this whisky bears a name, in this instance, ‘The Accelerator and The Brake,’ paying homage to the groundbreaking partnership of family members, the Gordon brothers – Charles (The Accelerator) and Sandy (The Brake). Their collaborative efforts reshaped the whisky landscape during the latter half of the 20th century. Charles, characterised by excited creativity, was balanced by Sandy, the pragmatic accountant, who tempered his wilder ideas.
Dave has masterfully captured the interplay between malt and grain whisky, with this exceptional creation inviting you to savour, contemplate, and ultimately enjoy this balanced and complex dram. Typically, malted whisky assumes the lead role, with grain whisky offering subtler, more restrained notes. However, in this instance, Dave has ingeniously inverted this, allowing the grain to claim the spotlight. Given the tendency of mature grain whisky to sometimes exhibit flavour profiles akin to malted whisky, this approach proves particularly harmonious.
The nose is full of zesty orange marmalade notes, with hints of tangerine, and a backdrop of rich tea biscuits. The palate is vibrant, underscored by an impressive 57.6% alcohol by volume. Transporting the senses to America, the palate unveils a medley of flavours including maple pie, vanilla and spice which culminates in a lingering mocha coffee finish. The layers of complexity unfold and linger, a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship at play. This is a whisky to be savoured and contemplated, ideally shared amongst friends, where moments can be dedicated to appreciating and discussing its intricacies.
A mere 209 bottles of ‘The Accelerator & The Brake,’ a 33-Year-Old masterpiece, have been made available worldwide, each commanding a price of £1700.