Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ballantine's Finest: Sweet Ballantine!

Owned by Pernot Ricard (owners of the Chivas and The Glenlivet malts), Ballantine's blended Scotch Whisky took my interest because it's bottled in the same town as my grandmother was born: Dumbarton, Scotland. Even the local Dumbarton F.C. is sponsored by Ballantine's…makes sense.

Home strip, Dumbarton F.C.
Whilst this review is about Ballantine's Finest, I have actually had a bottle of the 17yo which I bought duty free when returning from the US in 2008. I never wrote a review, as it was literally being consumed as the D.T.W.C. club and blog were being formed (if you look at one of our first posts, you'll see a picture of the box). The 17yo has actually just won Jim Murray's 2011 Whisky of the Year Award. All this means is that I hold this brand very close to my heart, as it touches my family, as well as my whisky family (aka D.T.W.C.).

Anyway, as part of a whisky project, I have started drinking my way through this family of blended Scotch malts, starting with Ballantine's Finest. Apparently they say there are over 40 whiskies in this blend, including grains, so not sure what chance I have to get this review right...but here goes!

The Bottle: I love the branding of Ballantine's, but I am a sucker for a good piece of stylised hand-writing. As a guess, Ballantine's have gone for a bottle shape reminiscent of a bygone era, with a short-squat square brown bottle. It works for me, particularly when you compare it to other brands around the $40 mark. Its easy to grip and would look great in a brown paper bag!?!

Nose: A strong pervading sweetness (almost rum-n-raison like) and alcoholic whiff. There is also pungent liquorice notes and subtle hints of vanilla.

Taste: Initially very sweet…and then more sweetness, which I assume is coming from the grain whiskies in the blend. I must say the sweetness not really to my personal liking, but would obviously suit those inclined to drinking with (dare I say) mixers like dry-ginger ale and coke. To end it has the strong sour taste of citrus fruits and some vanilla. The mouthfeel is syrupy, and the blend does tend to numb parts of the mouth.
Liked by the lady's, Ballantine's Finest!
I want to write that this is a brilliant whisky, maybe it is for the price, but it isn't to my liking. I haven't tried many blends in this price range so maybe my opinion will change once I have a serious Johnny Walker Black tasting or The Famous Grouse to review.

I would give this two-and-a-half bolts from a possible seven. Would I buy it again? I must admit I would save my money and buy the 17yo (which I just did, A$85 duty free only). I have also just purchased the 12yo (A$50, available Dan Murphy's). In the end, the sweetness in Ballantine's Finest kills it for me.

The Diplomat (formerly Secretary),

PS - Mark Gillespie from WhiskyCast was invited to tour the blending room at this famous distillery, see the podcast here.