Blue Hanger is the name of a series of blended malts released by the venerable wine merchant and independent bottler of whisky (and other spirits), Berry Bros. & Rudd. There have been a number of releases over the years, though they seem to have picked up speed in recent years after a bit of a hiatus. “Blended malt”, in case you don’t remember, is the now legally correct name for the old category of vatted malts: i.e. whisky composed of malts from multiple distilleries with no grain whisky in the mix (unlike “blended whisky” which is a mix of malt and grain).
As per the K&L website this 7th release was composed of “one hogshead of Bruichladdich 1992, one butt of Bunnahabhain 1990, four hogsheads of Miltonduff 1997, and two hogsheads of Bunnahabhain Moine (peated) 2006”. If sold with an age statement it would therefore have been a 6 or 7 yo (it was released in 2013). In a case like this one it’s understandable if a bottler wants to go the NAS route; it also goes without saying that it’s creditable that they also make it easy to know what’s in the bottle (and in this case there’s quite a bit of whisky aged 15-22 years in it). An interesting mix too with older sherried Bunnahabhain, younger peated bourbon cask Bunnahabhain and quite a bit of bourbon cask Miltonduff (presumably used for its usually fruity character). But what is it like?
Blue Hanger, 7th Release (45.6%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Sweet, mildly rubbery peat; gets a bit more phenolic as it sits and there’s quite a bit of almond oil and some salt as well. As it sits there’s vanilla and then some savoury notes (cured pork). With a lot more time the smoke gets ashier and there’s some lemon, but I’m not getting the fruit I’d expected from the Miltonduff component. Water integrates it all quite nicely and brings out more lemon.
Palate: Very much as on the nose to begin but then much ashier and not very phenolic; no real fruit here either aside from the lemon. More vanilla sweetness and just slightly butyric. That butyric note expands on the second sip and now the drier Bunnahabhain flavour of smoke is more apparent as are some floral, new makey notes. Not much evidence of the sherry component and not much change with time. The butyric note is gone with water and while there’s a rooty bitterness now it’s also more balanced (or you could say less idiosyncratic).
Finish: Long. It’s the ashiness that lingers, picking up some mentholated coolness as it goes. The smoke gets more intense with time. As on the palate with water.
Comments: I know there’s none in here but this is very Caol Ila on the nose to start. I do wonder if I would have had a slightly different reaction to this if I hadn’t know the precise components. Maybe I would have liked it more if I’d told myself the peat probably came from Caol Ila rather than Bunnahabhain. Which is not to say I didn’t like it but I don’t know that I could justify the price (which was in the $100 range on release). I think, on the whole, I liked it better with water (I added quite a bit).
Rating: 83 points.
Thanks to Patrick for the sample!