And Lo, a name was etched onto digital parchment that had not been muttered much at all, brought forth by a lowly mortal who dreamed to shine a light on the oft-overlooked name. This name I bring you is probably well known to the older generations and the knowledgeable epicureans who grace these pages, which has a long history and whose fans in the past included top government officials, but is rarely seen nor heard much compared with some of its modern counterparts – it is, of course, the illustrious Hankey Bannister.
I must admit – I’d never heard or thought much about Hankey Bannister until I tried a dram a couple of years back in a pub in Yorkshire. It’s not commonly found as far as I’m aware and it’s not the first name you think of compared with other more famous blends. I’m not aware they sponsor a sports team, or event like some others. Named after its founders Beaumont Hankey and Hugh Bannister, the name has been around for many years (founded in 1757). They sell a range of blends, from NAS entry-level ones up to 40-year-old exclusive blends.
This is the first time a Hankey Bannister has been reviewed on Malt in anger (Jason has mentioned the Heritage Blend a couple of times previously) so I’ll provide a brief history for illumination purposes as is tradition. But firstly, an analogy.
In every industry, small fish are eaten by larger fish to make even bigger fish. This is especially prevalent in the sea. Repeat ad nauseum until the largest fishes become unmanageable beasts and bits start to fall off and they collapse in on themselves and have problems relating to the treatment of their workforce. The world of whisky is a business studies lecture on this process, with many famous names being hoovered up by enormous organisations to become a mere entry on a company inventory list.
I’m a fan of small independent companies doing their own thing. But a quick scan through a list of whisky distilleries on Wikipedia tells me that out of around 130 distilleries in Scotland, sixteen are classed as independent. Sixteen! That’s really disappointing. There are obviously many independent bottlers, but given the scale of the whole industry it’s inevitable that we end up drinking conglomerate-produced whisky quite a lot of the time.
A subsidiary of ThaiBev, Inver House Distillers who produce Hankey Bannister also own and operate five distilleries – Balblair, Balmenach, Knockdhu, Pulteney and Speyburn. (You see, fish inside fish). These distilleries provide the malts for the Hankey Bannister blends which are also blended with Lowland grain whisky. All of the above results in the two blends reviewed today being products of modern, cash-chasing business cases.
As per usual there’s a lot of blurb about heritage/history/things done by people decades ago mentioned on their website for their products – as though that matters. Nothing much stands out from the norm – the 12 YO is standard stuff, a mix of grains and malts all aged for twelve years before being blended together. Nothing exciting there. The only thing pushing sales is the history and name.
However, there’s a bit of a marketing hook surrounding the Heritage Blend, something to whet a few appetites and encourage hands to be more grabby and pick up a bottle over and above the mere history. Inver House’s Master Distiller Stuart Harvey was tasked with recreating a 1920s bottle of Hankey Bannister that had been found, to provide us with an insight into a little bit of whisky history. There’s a handful of these historic recreations knocking around – how close they are to reality remains a question I couldn’t answer and I’m not sure if it’s just a gimmick that’s hooked me line and sinker. It comes in an attractive dark bottle, another little visual morsel to make it stand out from the crowd. 5,000 cases of this recreation have been produced using Hankey Bannister Original as a starting point and adding “older and peated malts” to try and obtain the flavour profile of the 1920s blend.
These can be picked up from many places – I saw the Heritage Blend in Oddbins recently much to my surprise, so check around. The 12 YO and Heritage Blends are bottled at 40% and 46% ABV. Master of Malt is asking £27.95 for the Heritage Blend, with the Regency costing £28.95. Whereas The Whisky Exchange request £29.45 for the Regency and £27.95 for the Heritage. Let’s not forget Amazon, where the Regency will set you back £28.95.
Hankey Bannister 12 Year Old Regency – review
Colour: Golden Yellow.
On the nose: Top notes of pear and rhubarb with raisins is the initial hit. The is a slight whiff of acetone, but thankfully it’s not hugely prevalent. A large dollop of caramel with some buttered teacake and toasted almonds follows on from that. A little cooked apple. Lemon oil, pine resin and orange join the mix, helping it avoid the “boring zone”.
In the mouth: Simpler – caramel again with marzipan and is quite sweet. Vanilla custard tart, dried fruits. A little nuttiness and nail varnish. Not as interesting as the nose, with much less going on. A weak insipid mouthfeel rounds off a rather average performance.
Hankey Bannister Heritage Blend – review
Hankey Bannister Heritage Blend – review
Colour: Pale Gold.
On the nose: A initial hit of a dry pinot grigio, milk chocolate, some earthy peat and toffee kick things off. I detect some salted caramel with a hint of wood smoke and dried figs, along with vanilla, pine resin and orange zest floating around too.
In the mouth: Apple pie flavours – buttery crust, toffee and apple. Deep down in there is some coal smoke mixed with orange zest and creamy chocolate. A rather lacklustre mouthfeel again – it feels very watered down, despite the higher strength. Nice balance though, but it lacks body. It’s better than average, but only just. I imagine what it would be like without chill filtration, which would be much better! For shame.
Fairly standard stuff from both really, the Heritage Blend just pipping its NAS sibling.
The 12 – well that lines up alongside other 12-year-old blends like the Chivas Regal 12 et al – nothing offensive, not bad, not great. Is this worth the thick end of £30? Nope, probably not, but it’s not so expensive that I regret purchasing it.
The Heritage Blend is more interesting, with much more going on. Definitely peatier as the description says than the usual stuff. Is it like a 1920s whisky? Who knows? But it’s interesting and a little different from the common or garden blends we find today. It would be nice to taste this alongside an older blend which has a bit of peated content. Perhaps one for another day.
Our thanks to The Whisky Exchange for the images. We also have commission links within this review. We like to point this out, rather than sweeping it under the carpet.