A legendary Scotch whisky family releases a once-private collection spanning seven decades.
On Christmas Day in 1887, William Grant, with his nine children, opened the eponymous whisky maker, William Grant & Sons, the manufacturer of Glenfiddich and Balvenie. Today it is the largest Scotch whisky distiller still 100% in family ownership. Known for being the first in the world to market single malt whisky the business is now run by subsequent generations of the Grant and Gordon families.
House of Hazelwood is the private family collection of whisky named after the Grant/Gordon family home Hazelwood House in Dufftown, Scotland. Still used by the family today this was the lifetime residence of luminary Janet Sheed Roberts (The Wee Janie), says family member Kirsten Grant Meikle fondly) who died in 2012 at the age of 110.
Family bonds run deep. Fifth generation-family member Kirsten Grant Meikle, is today spearheading the launch of a Scotch whisky range called House of Hazelwood, which comes from the Grant/Gordon family’s private stocks, some as old as 70 years. Squirrelled away for special occasions for so many years, “we’ve been keeping it for a rainy day,” Grant Meikle says over a Zoom call.
Working on the House of Hazelwood whiskies was an amazing experience, says Grant Meikle. “In the first sampling, we had 140 different casks to try. It was probably one of the best days of my life! Nothing disappointed us,” she says.
Different whiskies are set to be released by House of Hazelwood every six months, spanning every corner of Scotland, from the Girvan grain distillery on the South Ayrshire coast - to the last drops distilled at some of Scotland’s now silent distilleries. So far, two eight-bottle limited edition collections have been released: The Charles Gordon Collection and The Legacy Collection, first in Spring and then in Autumn of 2022.
With such a diverse inventory, the plan is to continue releasing rare and unique whiskies, “for quite some time,” says Grant Meikle, adding that each one will be different, none will ever be repeated. They also offer a whisky concierge service to complete private projects by commission.
Fine whisky runs in her blood, but Grant Meikle learned her trade and worked alongside the late Charles Grant Gordon (1927-2013), who was her uncle and who spent every holiday with his ‘Aunt Janie’ at Hazelwood House. It was Charles who insisted Kirsten join the business. A “complete maverick”, he was not an easy man to say no to, she recalls.
“He used to say to me, we don’t sell whisky, we sell dreams, she recalls. “It’s as much about the liquid as it is about the heritage of the brand, of which we have lots of,” she says.
Charles always emphasised the importance of patience and independence, she adds. “You need to be thinking long term in this business, he used to say. We’re not a publicly listed company; we answer to ourselves, that allows us the freedom to sit on stock for several years, to experiment, and the profile of whisky changes over time the longer you leave it.”
House of Hazelwood and the Charles Gordon Collection is uniquely tied to Charles’s entrepreneurial vision. In the 1960s William Grant & Sons didn’t own a grain distillery which meant they were reliant on purchasing grain from their competitors. After a quarrel about television advertising between William Grant & Sons and Distillers Company Limited (which would later become Diageo), Charles decided they needed to build their own grain distillery. “My uncle found an abandoned chemical plant in Girvan, South Ayrshire, close to the water, and within nine months it was producing alcohol,” she recalls. Today it is making some 130 million litres of alcohol per year.
“That gave us the independence to not have to rely on getting grain from other companies, and then we were in a position to trade casks with other companies to blend. And the rest, so they say, is history.”
House of Hazelwood is split across a range of four Charles Gordon Collection releases (£3,000 / 70cl) and four Legacy Collection releases (£950 - £1,500), the whiskies are available online from the House of Hazelwood web shop: www.houseofhazelwood.com, as well as through retailers including Harrods, Hedonism Wines, Royal Mile Whiskies, Davidoff of London and The Whisky Shop.