Hankey Bannister is an award winning range of blended whiskies that are marketed and released by Inver House Distillers. The slightly strange name comes from a partnership of two business men (whose surnames were 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 amongst royalty and the wealthy. Previous fans have included King George V, King Edward VII and Sir Winston Churchill.
The Hankey Bannister brand is exported to over 40 countries, with the main markets being the UK, South America, South Africa and Australia. The core range consists of the Original, which is the most popular and widely available, plus this 12 years old, a 21 and a 40 years old (note that the age stated on a blended whisky is the youngest whisky that is present, with some older whiskies also included). The 40 years old was produced to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Hankey Bannister & Co and it was this that won the most prestigious award available of Best Blended Whisky at The World Whisky Awards 2009. The whiskies are 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.
Our tasting notes
The colour is golden amber and the nose has a number of interesting aromas that combine very well - there are distinct, robust cereal grains that have a slightly toasted/burnt feeling to them, honey, caramel, dark dried fruits (think of raisin and sultana), cinnamon, a delicious whiff of orange oil and a subtle hint of sour dried apple. On the palate, this is rich and mouth coating with a pleasant sweetness to begin with. This sweetness is driven by notes of caramel, toffee, sugary crystalised honey and dried fruit (imagine sultana and candied orange peel especially). Then the robust cereal grains from the nose to add balance, dryness and a hint of bitterness, as does some increasingly spicy wood notes (think of oak, cinnamon and nutmeg). The finish is slightly tangy with the orange notes coming through well, before it turns woodier and spicier. It ends with a pleasant dryness with notes of oak, burnt cereals and nutmeg giving a faint sour bitterness.
What's the verdict?
This is a very good quality whisky, especially when you consider that it sells for around £25 a bottle. The delicious combination of the sweet elements with the drier, spicier ones and the robust cereals makes this an enjoyable and well balanced dram. Well worth a try. We thank Cathy James of Inver House Distillers for supplying us with this sample of Hankey Bannister 12 years old.