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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

NOT Single Malt Report: Blue Hanger (5th Release) Blended Malt

I have one hour to write and post this report or else......I'll just have to post it tomorrow.

The Blue Hanger blended malts are created by Doug McIvor for Berry Brothers & Rudd.  The first edition had only Glen Grant and Glenlivet casks in it and was given a 25 year old age statement.  The second and third had the same distilleries but had a 30 year old age statements.  For the fourth release, more distilleries had joined the lineup and the age statement was dropped (though it was just under 20 years old at that point).  The next year, McIvor and BB&R tested three different potential versions at Whisky Live Paris in order to let those socialists democratically elect the 5th edition.

Here are the ingredients for the prototype selected and ultimately bottled in October 2010:
Clynelish 1997, hogshead #4704
Dufftown 1982, hogshead #18584
Glenlivet 1978, hogshead #13510
Mortlach 1991, sherry butt #5141
(Source: Roskrow, Dominic (Ed.). 1001 Whiskies You Must Taste Before You Die. New York, NY: Universe Publishing. 2012.)

And here's the sample I bought from Master of Malt:

Company: Berry Bros. & Rudd
Brand: Blue Hanger
Type: Blended Malt (formerly known as Vatted Malt)
Edition: 5th Release
Bottled: October 2010
Ingredients and Age: See notes above
Alcohol by Volume: 45.6%
Limited release: 1,155 bottles

Its color is a dark gold.  The nose leads with oranges, brown sugar, and nutty sherry.  That's followed by dried cherries, caramel candies, pear, and toasted oak.  There's a little grassiness and some salted beef (the cows who ate the grass, I suppose).  Gradually a note of honey cinnamon glaze develops, as does a bold one of mackintosh apple skins.  It's big sherry that hits first on the palate.  Tobacco, mint leaves, candy canes, something pepperish (which might be sulphur), and chocolate malt follow up next.  Also a subtle note of rosewater and little bit of salt.  It's not that sweet, which is appreciated.  There's a lot of sherry in the finish as well.  Madeira too; let's just say it's a fortified wine party.  Toasty grains and oak meet tart berries.  Nestle's milk chocolate and stewed cherries.

That single Mortlach sherry butt must have been a monster on its own because it holds court throughout.  The result is very similar to a version of Macallan that some of us wish still existed: dense, bold, malty, and loaded with fruits.  With the sweetness in control and the hint of sulphur in the background, the whisky is much more interesting than I had expected.  I think it's right up there with Compass Box's Spice Tree as my favorite vatted malt so far.  The apple skin note in the nose was lovely.  The tobacco/rosewater/sulphur combo really worked somehow, as if it was a Persian restaurant in a glass.  If you're sherry-phobic this won't work for you, but if you're not then good luck tracking down a bottle!

Availability - This release has mostly sold out, a few European stores may still have it
Pricing - £70 or more, especially if it's deemed "collectible"
Rating - 89