The slightly strange name comes from a partnership of two business men (surnames Hankey and Bannister) who set up a wine and spirits business in the West End of London in 1757. They were one of the first companies to take whisky from Scotland and blend it elsewhere. The popularity of their whiskies grew with time, especially with royalty and the wealthy. Fans have included King George V, King Edward VII and Sir Winston Churchill.
The Hankey Bannister brand is currently owned by Inver House Distillers and it is exported to over 40 countries. Its main markets are the UK, South America, South Africa and Australia. This Original Blend is based loosely on Hankey and Bannister's original recipe and contains around 30% of single malt whisky (predominantly from the Balblair distillery but also Balmenach and Knockdhu). The remaining 70% is grain whisky mostly coming from the North British and Port Dundas distilleries.
The colour of this Hankey Bannister is golden amber and the nose is light yet aromatic. It is immediately fruity (think of dried fruits like sultanas and candied peel, especially orange) with some spiciness (think of ginger and nutmeg) and lots of cereal grains giving a hit of bitterness. This balances the sweetness that is present (imagine vanilla and caramel). Also add in a hint of slightly sulphuric smokiness (reminding us of struck matchsticks). On the palate, there is a lovely initial combination of sweet notes - the dried fruits from the nose, vanilla, honey and caramel. This feels quite creamy and buttery in your mouth and then some slightly bitter elements start coming through. A note of sweet cereal grain begins this but they quickly turn bitter (think of chewing the grain husks) and this note is joined by some almost exaggerated woodiness. While this may sound unpleasant, it is actually enjoyable and gives the whisky difference and character, compared to other blends which can be quite bland. The finish is reasonably long and sweet with some sugary caramel and vanilla giving way to some heavy cereal grains and wood spice (imagine cinnamon).
Hankey Bannister Original Blend is an enjoyable and characterful blended whisky that is very easy to drink either straight or with a mixer (we tried it with tonic water and it was particularly good!). The slightly harsh bitter cereal notes may not be to everyone's taste but it still offers great value for money at only £12-15 a bottle.