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This is not to knock the Bally Finest, just to make you aware of the problems of writing a review with a rather smelly cat perched on my lap. Elvis, named originally because his missing tooth gave him a lip-curl reminiscent of the King, who's now going through his very own fat stage (sequins next?), does like to add his own, unique flavour notes to whatever I'm sampling.
So, evaluating a dram of Ballentine's Finest while attempting to filter out the smell of an over-excited fat cat is not the easiest of tasks, however nihil desperandum.
There's a bit of a fruity ester smell at the outset (not Elvis, I got that particular note from the Bally before fat boy joined me). I'm also getting a bit of smoke, but it's the same glass that held a measure of Laphroaig 10yo not 20 minutes ago, so maybe it's a cuckoo in the glass.
But no, it's there in the taste as well: a very subtle salty, smoky tang which gives this blend a bit of oomph. Next the vanilla kicks in and coats the side of the mouth. Finally, something almost floral at the back of the mouth.
Altogether a nicely complex blend which can be served alongside a well-matured moggie. The smoke complements the strong fishy smell (sardines? pilchards? hake?) and the vanilla stands its ground with that pervasive musky smell ... and I don't want to know where that comes from.
I'll save my good malts for when my cats are out on the razz and sup a damn fine blend like Bally's Finest when they're in a sociable, curl-up-on-the-lap mood. Slainté!