With a weekend behind me I would rather forget, having been to one end of the country and back again in a day, to then arrive back in London on a time schedule which would leave even those with teleportation abilities wondering how they were to fit everything in, it was a pleasure to make (if a tad late) my final appointment of the day. The calm, tranquil setting of the Pickering room, deep in the basement of No.3 St James street at Berry Bros & Rudd, being filed with familiar faces such as Neil and Joel of Cask Strength, Marcin from No.1 Drinks, SMWS boys, Billy, Alwyn and Kirtsy, certainly helped remove the stress of the proceeding days and hours. It’s a rather amazing building, steeped with history at every turn that I have had the fortunate luck of hearing over many years and it never fails to entertain me each time I visit. Thankfully, its normally with a glass of something rather special in my hand and this time was no exception.
The reason we were gathered was to hear the ever entertaining Doug McIvor, Master of Cask Selection, talk us through the latest release in the Blue Hanger range. Blue Hanger is a collection of blended malt (vattings for those who remember the term) whiskies of exceptional quality named after William ‘Blue’ Hanger, a loyal customer at Berry Bros. & Rudd know for his expensive blue clothes. The releases originally came to the diplomatic market in 1932 but had faded into history, until being revived in 2003 by Doug. The first release was a sublime marriage of Glenlivet and Glen Grant casks which produced just 723 bottles from a total of 4 hogsheads. Unsurprisingly, it sold out almost immediately upon its release as has been the fate of every subsequent release in the Blue Hanger range. Creation of a new addition only takes place when Doug feels they have secured the right casks in the best condition and can create a complimentary expression addition to the range.
There is always a nod to the original style which was heavy on the sherry cask although Release no. 6 did surprise a few of us with its more smokey character- but then, after winning Best Scotch Blended Malt in the World in 2008 & 2012 – it clearly was a pleasant surprise. With Doug now working on the 7th release of Blue Hanger, we were offered samples of releases 2, 4, 6 & 7 plus a couple of little single cask tipples just for fun – and a 1974 Glen Grant single cask IS a lot of fun. You will have to forgive me for not popping any tasting notes below on that particular whisky- sometimes you have to just put the pen down and enjoy something as rare as this, giving it some respect rather than trying to analyze it. After all, the pleasure is in the drinking.
Blue Hanger 2nd Release 25year old Blended Single Malt
723 bottles, 45.6% ABV, Non-chill filtered
4 hogshead of Glenlivet 1974, 1 sherry butt of Glenlivet 1974, 2 hogsheads of Glen Grant 1974
Appearance- Warm gold with hints of rose
Nose- Tropical fruit salad with apricot and crushed nuts. Buttery with slight rancio notes and light orange zest emerged before turning more towards floral lavender, hay, nubuck leather and kirsch.
Palate- Much of what was to be discovered on the nose with additional chewy cinnamon, coffee/cocoa nib, cherry wood and spices of nutmeg and clove.
Blue Hanger 4th Release Blended single Malt
3256 Bottles, 45.6% ABV, Non Chill Filtered
2 hogheads of Mortlach 1992, 1 sherry butt of Mortlach 1991, 1 sherry butt of Glen Elgin 1991, 2 sherry butts from Glenlivet 1974, ’75, 1 hogshead of Glenlivet 1976
Appearance- Golden Hay
Nose- Brazil nut and new plasticine with charred nut shells and a floral element which turns mineral before light clementine noted emerge. Struck match and the side of a Swan Vesta strike pad come to the front but seem to unite the other elements.
Palate- A gentle palate of warm spice, light honey and butter with cardamom and dry, toasty wood. Orange peel and dried apricots bring a welcome fruity center to the whisky.
Blue Hanger 6th Release Blended Single Malt
2223 bottles, 45.6% ABV Non Chill Filtered
Sherry butt of Glenrothes 1990
Sherry Butt of Bunnahabhain 1990
Hogshead of Bowmore 1980
Hogshead of Bowmore 1987
Appearance- Warm bronze with rose gold
Nose- Chocolate covered Brazil nut, linseed oil and liquorice root all wrapped in seaside aromas with drifts of dying embers. Brandy butter, flamed orange peel, ginger root and hay compete this most complex of noses.
Palate- Chewy indeed and as indicated from the nose, a lot going on but thankfully in harmony. Salty bar-b-que with pancetta strips, gingerbread, peat smoke and cinnamon spiced chestnuts all playing there part in bringing this wonderful marriage of sherry influenced peat smoke together.
Summary- If the outstanding quality of these exceptional cask, expertly married together to create delicious whisky was not enough to tempt you- try the fact that this latest release is only £66.81 RRP! don’t expect it to hanger round forever ! If this is a little rich for your pocket, then you wont go far wrong with Berry’s other blended option- Cutty Sark