Review: Ballantine's Finest Blended Scotch / by Jason Hambrey

Scottish Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

One of the standard blended scotches available – Ballantine’s Blended Scotch. Blended scotches are certainly cheaper than single malts, and often offer more consistency. Perhaps they are more ignored because they don’t change as much – what they offer is a standard, consistent product that one can rely on. Single malts are all the range, seemingly, because they are different – you can luck out and get a fantastic bottling, or luck out and spend big bucks on a dreadful bottling. The brands generally offer different things, in effect creating their own niches of products with dedicated followers.

Ballantine’s is currently the number 2 selling blended scotch in the world (behind Johnnie Walker), though its sales have been in slight decline of late. Ballantine’s finest is their base offering.

Review (2012)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Nose:  Dried fruit with peat in the background, a bit of gold tequila, not overly pleasant in my opinion. Candied cherries, juniper; grape milk chocolate.

Taste: sweet entry without a big body followed by a peat mixed with fruit – red apple and raisins perhaps. Quite sweet. Milk chocolate as well.

Finish: not a particularly bold finish. The sweet fruitiness fades to gentle peat and herbal flavours. Slight peat lingers in the mouth. The aftertaste is a bit fragile and fades relatively quickly.

If there were a scotch candy, I imagine this would taste like that. The first time I drank this I didn’t like it; it became palatable as I drank more but it isn’t for me. Sometimes I find blends just try to do too much.

Value: Low, even at a relatively low price. you can do better at bottom shelf prices, especially in North American whiskies.

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: LKFK5304 2016/12/12 09:30

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

I was drawn to this one initially, as many probably were, because of Jim Murray. It was one of the first whiskies I actually reviewed, so it’s a bit of a fascinating retaste because of how much my palate has developed in 5 years – it tastes the same, but I see so much more of what is going on now. I am now in Hungary briefly, and Europe’s most consumed Scotch is one of the few whiskies available here…

A big grain influence, with dried apricot and vanilla, smoke, mixed nuts, prune, raisin, honey, boiled tomatoes, and a slight floral peaty character. And quite spicy – cinnamon notably. The taste has sweet oak, cinnamon, peaty undertones, stale coffee, and maraschino cherries. The finish stays on with cinnamon, smoke, and light ash with a bit of sweet young grain whisky. Ever so slightly bitter (like bitter clove) and sour on the finish. Filtered apple juice, eventually. “Scotch candy” as I have called it before – it still rings true. But, it’s still not my style.

Value: Low, even at a relatively low price. you can do better at bottom shelf prices, especially in North American whiskies.