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Ballantine’s Finest Blended Scotch Whisky

Review: Ballantine’s Finest Blended Scotch Whisky   72.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra
Published June 17, 2014

The heritage of Ballantine’s Scotch Whisky can be traced back to 1827 when George Ballantine set up a small grocery store in Edinburgh supplying a range of whiskies to his clients. In 1865, he opened a larger establishment in Glasgow where he concentrated on the wine and spirit trade and catered to a more upscale customer base which apparently included the Hindu Royal Family. It was at this time that Ballantine started the experimentation which led to the creation of his own whisky blends. By the time his son George Jr. took over the business, Ballantine’s was a growing concern and the family eventually sold the prosperous business to Barclay and McKinlay in 1919. As the business and the brand continued to grow, the brand attracted the attention of the Canadian firm, Hiram Walker Gooderham & Worts who acquired Ballantine’s in 1937. Growth continued especially in new markets in Europe. Then in 1988, the Company became part of the global beverage conglomerate Allied Domecq, and later (in 2005) was acquired by Pernod Ricard who own the brand today.

Ballantine’s Finest Blended Scotch Whisky is the flagship whisky of the Ballantine’s brand. It is blended from a mixture of malt and grain whiskies all of which are aged (as per Scottish Law) for a minimum of three years in oak barrels.

ballantine-finestIn the Bottle 4.5/5

The Ballantine’s Finest arrives in the squat rectangular bottle shown to the left. The bottle and the labeling are very nice (especially for an economy whisky in the blended category). My only quibble is the metallic screw cap which is quite flimsy and prone to stripping. This is a very inexpensive whisky and so I am not harsh in my judgement.

In the Glass 7.5/10

When I pour the Ballantine’s into my glass I see the whisky has a pale golden hue similar to freshly baled straw. When I tilt my glass and give it a slow twirl, the whisky leaves a slightly thickened sheen on the inside of that glass the crest of which drops many leggy drooplets which quickly form skinny legs which run back down into the whisky.

The initial nose rising into the breezes above the glass has a firm honeyed butterscotch taint which is accented by heather and fine grain spices. I also detect light notes of raisins and cherry licorice which hints at a few sherry barrels which may have been utilized in the aging of at least some of the whisky. As I let the glass sit I notice fruity aromas of apple juice and canned peaches and apricots, as well as more grain-like scents which remind me of orange and lime zest and damp cigarette tobacco.

Unfortunately the nose has a very intense penetrating quality to it which seems to overshadow the more pleasant scents and smells. The whisky appears to be very complex; however it also appears to be tilted a too much towards grainy sweetness for me to enjoy the breezes above the glass.

In the Glass  42.5/60

Sampling the Ballantine’s Finest neat is perhaps not an experience I would care to repeat too often. The blended whisky features a punky sweet spiciness that has me reluctant to continue much further without ice. That is a shame, because I believe I can taste a lot of other interesting flavours which have unfortunately been ambushed by the whisky’s grainy sweetness. There are indications of fermented apple juice, some clumps of grassy heather, bits of cherry licorice, and some impressions of canned and dry fruit all struggling to find expression within the whisky. I find the overall result unbalanced (for my taste anyways), and I probably need to mix a few cocktails to see if I can find redemption.

Unfortunately , the cocktails I mixed all seemed lackluster and unexciting, and in the end I finally decided that drowning the whisky in ginger-ale was really the only way to find enjoyment.

In the Throat  11/15

The finish is short and filled with sweet butterscotch and toffee. I am left with an aftertaste which reminds me of the flavours of old cigarettes, almond extract and corn syrup which seems an odd mixture. Perhaps if I got used to this, I would like it, but I have no inclination to follow that thought process through with more experimentation.

The Afterburn  7/10

I am not usually negative with respect to my spirit reviews. However, I cannot deny that Ballantine’s Finest Blended Scotch Whisky rubs me the wrong way, and I cannot say that I enjoyed my tasting sessions. I tried to remind myself during the review that this particular blended whisky is not marketed nor sold (in my market at least) as a sipping whisky. It is an economy spirit intended for mixing. My low score (72.5/100) however, is an indication, that I found the spirit did not inspire me in that format either.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

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Suggested Recipe

SAM_1027 Mamie TaylorThe Mamie Taylor Cocktail

2 oz Ballantine’s Finest Blended Scotch Whisky
2 oz Ginger Ale
1 1/2 oz Club Soda
1/2 Lime (fresh squeezed)
ice

Add the Ice-cubes to a Collins glass
Pour the Whisky over the ice
Add Ginger Ale, Soda and Lime juice
Stir and garnish with a lime slice
Enjoy!

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping an

 
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