Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Hankey Bannister Blended Scotch Whisky


Distillery: Blended Scotch Whisky
Bottling: Hankey Bannister (Inver House)
Age: NAS
Strength: 40%

Tonight I am doing something out of the ordinary for me, and that is writing notes for a Blended Scotch Whisky, and by that I mean a blend which is comprised of both Malt and Grain Whisky from a variety of distilleries. The blend I am going to look at is Hankey Bannister and the reason I have chosen this is because it is one of the flagship blends which belong to Inver House Distillers (International Beverage), and one which has malt whisky from my favourite distillery Balblair which is one of the distilleries owned by Inver House along side Pulteney (Old Pulteney), Knockdhu (anCnoc, Speyburn and Balmenach, all of which are producing highly regarded single malt whiskies.

Blended Whisky gets a bad reputation among many single malt drinkers and I admit even by myself in the past, however it is worth remembering that single malt whisky only makes up approximately 10% of whisky produced, and the 90% of whisky produced at pretty much most of the distilleries including my beloved Balblair is put into blended whisky. Without blended whisky most of these distilleries would cease to exist, and indeed in the past many distilleries have been mothballed or destroyed as a result of changed in the blended whisky market. So I say to every one who liked blended whisky - please keep drinking it! As long as you due I shall be able to continue drinking my favourite single malts! It is a win win situation.

Anyway, Hankey Bannister is a blended whisky which is made up of single malt from all of the above single malt distilleries, and also with grain whisky from as far as I can research is from both the North British (Edinburgh) and Port Dundas (Glasgow) grain distilleries. However the Port Dundas distillery is now closed so I can only assume this is no longer the case and grain from somewhere else is being used. Maybe Invergordon or Strathclyde? As far as I can find out it is made up of approximately 30% malt whisky of which this is mostly Balblair, and then 70% grain whisky.

Let's taste it then.

Nose: I expected the first thing to hit me was the smell of grain, but I am wrong, and it would be unfair anyway to just shout GRAIN GRAIN GRAIN and not thinking about the other subtleties which are present so that is what I will do. The initial nose gives me sherried malt notes. Praline and Marzipan. Sweet Almonds, milk chocolate and mint chocolate. My nose is very aware of menthol notes from sherried whisky and I can usually detect it quite strongly in most sherried malts. The menthol notes here are starting to come in a way that reminds me of mouth wash and I imagine that is the effect of the mixture with young spirit but in a way that takes the edge of something which woulde be harsher so I think these sherry notes balance out this youthfulness. Vanilla, Oak and some other spicy elements can be detected. I am getting cereal aromas which I suspect are coming from the grain which remind me of shortbread fingers, buttery and biscuity. Some fresher fruits coming through by way of pear and red apple, almost crab apple like. A little mango and the fruit coming to an end with the slight tannin bitterness of orange peel.  Some burnt toffee and at the very back is a whisp of smoke on the horizon and finally some lighter solvent notes which creep out every now and again.

Palate: The low alcohol of 40% is immediately evident on the palate. I am a guy that likes a real kick in the teeth from my whisky but I know I am in the minority here. Very easy and fairly smooth. The dried fruit and sherry notes carry into the mouth fairly easily backed up with that familiar grain kick but nothing offensive. The Vanilla, Oak and spicy elements are there as well.

Finish: The kicker here is the finish is actually suprisingly long and indeed longer than some single malts which are older and stronger. I suspect the young spirit is helping out with this. Slightly chewy with the dark dried fruit, some dark chocolate and that whisp of smoke again.

Comments: You know what? I am not offended by this. I don't think it is something I could sit and savour in the same way I do my single malts  but it has made a change of scenery for me and given me an insight into the greater world of blended whisky and has opened my eyes to some of where Balblair ends up. I would be very interested in trying some of the other Hankey Bannister releases such as their 12 year old and 21 year old but they appear very hard to get hold of in the general UK market. If anyone could send me some samples to review I would greatly appreciate it ;)

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