Hedonism Meets... Jonathan Gibson, House of Hazelwood

Jonathan Gibson tasting whiskies at House of Hazelwood


Hedonism Wines catches up with Marketing Director, Jonathan Gibson, to hear about the story behind House of Hazelwood and the unrivalled once-private collection of aged Scotch whiskies that are being released to collectors and whisky enthusiasts alike…

As a new business, opening the doors to some very old whiskies, can you tell us a bit about the story behind House of Hazelwood and how the venture began? 

The stocks were built up through the generations on a parcel-by-parcel basis – the consequence at times of an experimental mindset, at times of casks held back to see how they developed and at times because the stocks in question were of obvious historical significance (for example, the first drops of whisky that ran off the stills at Girvan). 

There was a freedom in what the family did – enabled by private family ownership and driven by a curiosity to look beyond categories to explore the idea of Scotch as a whole rather than fixating on individual categories. And of course, much of this work happened throughout periods when greatly aged Scotch whisky was neither fashionable nor in demand, showing remarkable prescience and perhaps an instinct for what would come in the years ahead. 

Over the years the collection grew to a scale, breadth and depth that is truly unrivalled. And this in turn puts us in the fortunate position of being able to build on the foresight, creative thinking and endeavours of those that came before us.

Tradition barrel making at House of Hazelwood


Traditional barrel making at House of Hazelwood


For almost one hundred years, generations of the Gordon family have carefully laid down stocks of whisky for special occasions and personal consumption. How did the decision to make this private collection available to buyers outside the immediate family come about? 

The Gordon family have been extremely generous with our team in opening the doors to what was, until now, a private inventory of aged whisky.  It’s an amazing resource to explore – a whisky enthusiast’s dream.

By the time they had opened the doors to me and our team, the inventory had simply reached a point where a meaningful proportion of the stock was at its peak. Holding these stocks in cask any longer would not have improved them and at the volumes we are talking about (typically 70 - 400 bottles per release) it would not be practical to bottle purely for personal consumption or gifting.  

What was initially started as an exercise in experimentation, innovation, creative freedom from the constraints of category and house style had reached a scale and level of maturity where it was only right to share it with the outside world. It was an incredible opportunity for me, personally, and I think the inventory is well-placed to add something very special, highly unusual to the whisky category. 

‘It is a story of legacy, of forward-thinking – building on the work of the previous generation and laying down something special for the next to take forward.’

Where does the name House of Hazelwood come from?

Hazelwood House is the family home of the Gordons – situated just outside Dufftown in the heart of Scotch whisky distilling country. It is a special place, still a family residence to this day – and many of the Gordon family either grew up there or spent significant periods of their youth in the house. 

The name House of Hazelwood draws on this connection in part to reflect the personal nature of these releases. This is private family stock from what is arguably Scotland’s greatest family of whisky-makers. There is a wonderful connection between the place, the people that lived there, the decisions they made and the stocks that those decisions now give us access to today. It is a story of legacy, of forward-thinking – building on the work of the previous generation and laying down something special for the next to take forward. 

‘The breadth and depth of whiskies is astonishing and those that have reached their peak are without exception remarkable liquids…’

A Scottish distillery under a heavy sky

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With no requirement to release whiskies of a given age or a given style on a set date, how do you go about hand selecting the small batches for release? 

Our stocks reflect the creative freedom of the family that laid them down and as you rightly say one of the glorious things about the collection is that there is no requirement to stick to one category (for example Single Malt or Blended Scotch), a particular house style (fruity, heavy sherry etc.) or age statement.  This is hugely empowering for us and undoubtedly the best part of our job is to work with the family to explore the stocks in detail before making a decision on which are ready for release, which should be held back a little longer and the best ways to articulate the stories attached to each liquid. 

The breadth and depth of whiskies is astonishing and those that have reached their peak are without exception remarkable liquids; the consequence of remarkable thinking, of brave decision-making and the luxury of time that private family ownership brings. The biggest challenge is picking our way through the inventory to bring together a collection that is at once diverse and yet that carries an identity of its own. 

When we do this we set out to ensure that the whiskies we present today reflect the family and individuals that laid the original stocks down all those years ago – their mindset, their character, their ambitions. These all need to shine through in the releases we make available. 

Rolling out the barrel at House of Hazelwood


Can you tell our readers a little about the 2022 releases that are being sold through Hedonism Wines?

We’re fortunate in that every whisky we have released since launch has been made available through Hedonism Wines. From the first drops of whisky distilled at Girvan distillery back in the early 60s, through to cask of remarkable flavour such as A Breath of Fresh Air and Sunshine on Speyside this is a collection of individual spirits, representing unique casks, trials that have taken place over the years and combinations that may never be seen again. There are now sixteen releases within the collection, all of which have been made available to purchase at Hedonism Wines. 

For readers coming to aged whisky for the first time, what are the key aspects to consider when choosing to purchase?

Like any collectable item, one of the most important things is to be clear on what it is that you are buying it for. Is it for personal enjoyment, consumption, the satisfaction of building up a collection or with an expectation that the whisky will increase in value. Aged Scotch whisky can offer all of these things but some of them are more reliable than others.

For us, the key thing I would say is enjoyment and we always encourage people to buy with joy. Whisky is a wonderfully evocative spirit and it can bring pleasure in many ways. The House of Hazelwood collection is special by virtue of its rarity (typically 70 - 400 bottles per release), the stories it links through to, the character of the liquid itself and the provenance the spirits represent. All of these characteristics are highly sought after for collectors – all of them bring pleasure in different ways. 

How would you recommend serving and enjoying rare luxury Scottish whisky?

This is an entirely personal choice and I can only speak for myself. Personally, I like to enjoy whiskies such as these in their natural state at natural cask strength (all our releases are bottled in this manner) but many others will choose to add a little still water to open up the dram or a cube of ice to cool and dilute the spirit. There is no right or wrong way but giving the whisky time will certainly help you get the most out of it. If drinking for enjoyment, a heavy rocks glass is wonderful but if you’re really trying to dissect the flavour and character a copita glass is a wise choice. 

Many people think whisky is best enjoyed after dinner but actually it’s a wonderful drink at any point in the afternoon or evening. A late afternoon or early evening whisky is one of my own real pleasures in life – the hard part of the day behind you, a whisky in hand and the evening ahead. 

The Lost Estate from House of Hazelwood


A key name on the Scottish whisky scene, can you tell our readers a little of the history behind the Gordon family? 

The Gordons are arguably Scotland’s foremost distilling family. Charles Gordon, in particular – who we have named our most highly aged releases after – was affectionately known in the industry as ‘Mr Whisky’. He was a visionary who pioneered the development of the Single Malt category, built one of Scotland’s most important distilleries (Girvan) in nine months, opened up the American market for Scotch and created several brands that are successful to this day. Their distilling pedigree dating back over 150 years and the business is still family-owned to this day.

What are the challenges of bringing such rare and limited edition whiskies to the UK market?

The challenges are certainly fewer than the opportunities. These are the most compelling whiskies to come from one of the foremost families in Scotch. And the liquid itself is simply outstanding – each release demonstrates the remarkable character and brave decision-making of the individuals that laid the stocks down, as well as the luxury of time that private family ownership brings. 

We want to do justice to the stocks that we have access to. These are incredible whiskies that deserve the attention of collectors and enthusiasts around the world. Our role, our vision for the brand is to do just that – to open the doors for the right consumers to discover them, to share the stories behind them. That is the joy of our business.

We are a small business with a team of eight. If anything the main challenge is getting the liquid in front of people – sharing the stories, tasting the stock. And this is where working with partners such as Hedonism is key – by building together we can get the stories in front of more of the right people. 

As Marketing Director at House of Hazelwood, how do you go about telling the stories of these unique, once-in-a-lifetime drams?

Slowly! The main thing is to get the time with customers to do the whiskies justice. We could talk about any one of them for hours – and we do when we get the chance. Each one is a snapshot in time, linking back not only to the period within which it was distilled but also to the ambitions of the people that made it, their hopes, their dreams, their vision. Many of them are intrinsically linked to the periods within which they were created – demonstrating societal trends towards modernisation or reflecting different stages of the Scotch whisky industry’s evolution. They’re fascinating talking points to explore and we love it when we get the time to talk to them – it’s one of the best parts of the job.