Now that the holidays are over, I suppose it’s time to evaluate my go-to Christmas mixer that has come in handy several times throughout the last few weeks. Ballantine’s Christmas Reserve has been prepared specifically with rich, deep, fruity notes that are intended to compliment the holiday season. This is actually the 2012 release that I bought on sale earlier in 2013. It turned out to be a very affordable and balanced seasonal release that actually does what it set out to do.
Nose: Heavy sherry influence with a focus on fruits. Berries, raisins, orange juice, dark chocolate, Christmas cake, cinnamon, nutmeg, caramelized apples, and Demarera sugar. Grain is detectable, but not unpleasant.
Palate: A medium, rather oily mouthfeel. Initially a strong, somewhat sour raisin note hits us. Nutty. Then a faint wisp of smoke and some wood. Christmas cake, nutmeg, red wine, and oranges.
Finish: Smoke, ginger, cinnamon, plum, red wine, tobacco, drying oak, roasted almonds, nutmeg, and a grainy note carry us through the finish, which is vibrant but kind of short. It’s smooth and pleasant throughout.
As far as I’m concerned, this whisky has achieved its objective. It’s really does a good job of capturing those deep, rich, robust Christmas notes. It’s wonderful in mixers, and it’s good enough to sip on its own. The grain is well integrated, and there’s also a good balance of sweet and sour. Given the price, the smoothness, the unique packaging, and the seasonal availability; I think of this is a fun and handy bottle to have around during the holidays.
@hunggar, thanks for your very nice detailed review. In the 'whisky for every occasion' and 'whisky for every frame of mind' mode, this Ballantine's Christmas Reserve sounds like a nice addition to the repertoire. Whisk(e)y to match every whim and mood is why I have such a somewhat ridiculous number of bottles on hand in the first place. I like the look of the bottle and of the box of the Ballantine's Christmas Reserve a lot too.
Actually the packaging looks better in pictures. There's a screw cap, and the gold logo doesn't contrast the dark brown bottle very well. Minor quibbles, however. It's cheap, it's skillfully blended, and it even comes with a little booklet which gives us a hot chocolate/whisky Christmas recipe. I tried it, it's pretty good!