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Scotch blends are all good, as blends go … they are created and tested to perfection over many years … so how can I possibly review and critique a successful blend that has been around for decades !? The answer is that they are all different, and I can herein only let you know why I like this one quite a lot. Oh, and why bother with a blend at all !? Well, sometimes I just like a pleasant, tasty, easy-going drink, that is pretty much guaranteed not offend in any way. These are moments when I don’t need to be bombarded with a multitude of flavors, or engaged, excited, smoked, salted, or challenged by a one-time bottling. And in addition, more of my non-malty friends may join me for a drink. Blends do have their place … but of course all are not as congenial at the Ballantine’s 12.
It is interesting to note that the bottle for the 12 is bigger and heavier than the Finest … it’s those marketing people again! And, unlike the Finest, the 12 has one of those recalcitrant pour spouts, often found on Mexican brandy or rum bottles. I’ve read that this prevents refilling and re-offering the bottles with an inferior spirit. Though this spout usually adds a degree of adventure to your tastings (you never know how much will come out), the spout on my bottle luckily worked well. This plastic spout would also discourage drinking directly from the bottle :-)
After priming the palate with several other blends and light Speysides, I poured a couple samples which included the entry-level Ballantine’s Finest, which is a natural target for comparison. The Ballantine’s 12 label states that it is “fully oak matured”, whereas the Finest label just says “fully matured”; though I’m not sure what that means, it seems to somehow enter into the tasting results. No water was added.
Glass Nose: After leaving it rest: nicely pungent vanilla, caramel. After the 3rd taste … I get a nose of bourbon … pretty nice for a blend. The Finest nose was more citrusy and also very nice.
Empty Glass Nose: Pronounced and lingering butter, caramel and vanilla … reminds me of bourbon.
Palate: Strong opening of fruit and honey, butter and some caramel … sometimes a little spicy. There is absolutely nothing offensive, and each taste seems to become more enjoyable than the last. The flavor depth is deeper as compared to the Finest.
Finish: Medium to short, warm and satisfying finish, with no bitterness or any unpleasantries. The Finest was similar.
Conclusion: Though Ballantine’s 12 has less complexity and depth than even the lightest “Glen” malts, it is highly drinkable and quite enjoyable. It is quite different than Chivas 12 or JW 12, which I also very much enjoy, and instead of the usual “scotch blend taste”, has more of a whiskey character. At about 23 USD, the 12 is a useful addition to my collection. The Finest is lighter and more delicate, but is also a very pleasant drink and quite delicious. For a good review of the Finest see: connosr.com/reviews/ballantines/…
Ballantine’s also produces many expressions having greater years of maturity. But at these more mature prices, one now has to ponder whether a single malt would now be the better buy.
Ballantine’s 12 makes for a fine alternative for an entry-level Irish or Canadian blend, or even a light single malt scotch, and it is certaintly a best-buy in this category. I really enjoyed this tasting session.
Score 87/100 in the blend category.