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Ballantines Finest

Sticker shock

4 887

@OdysseusUnboundReview by @OdysseusUnbound

17th Aug 2018

1

  • Nose
    21
  • Taste
    22
  • Finish
    22
  • Balance
    22
  • Overall
    87

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

I’ve probably tasted Ballantine’s Finest dozens of times, and I’ve always found it pleasant, but I’ve never really paid close attention to it. This is probably because of its “bottom shelf” price. This has been a mistake on my part that I’m endeavouring to rectify. Every whisky should be evaluated in the same manner, regardless of its price point. Perhaps I’m also going to start mixing my more expensive whiskies with Ginger Ale, just to be thorough. Maybe not.

Tasting Notes

  • Nose (undiluted): ripe pears jump out immediately, followed by some light oak notes, with a faint hint of honey.
  • Palate (undiluted): medium bodied, creamier than I expected, some vanilla, cinnamon, more pears, ripe banana, and a slight hint of peat smoke near the end.
  • Finish: short to medium length, light peat smoke, raisins, oak, with a vanilla note lingering

There’s absolutely no bitter notes, no acetone (nail polish remover) notes marring the nose, nothing discordant whatsoever in this whisky. It’s subtle, but wonderfully balanced. From the nose to the finish it develops, adding a little something at each step. Forget the modest price tag; this is an example of fantastic blending. Adding water tones down the fruit, detracts from the creamy mouthfeel and makes the peat feel a bit ashy. Now I love ashy peat, but it doesn’t work as well here as it does in other whiskies. Skip the water.

Also, oxidization seems to creep in fairly quickly. After only a few days of air exposure, the peat kind of takes over the final part of the development and the finish by pushing the pear notes into the background. Now I love Peated whisky, so this doesn’t bother me, but if you don’t like ashy peat, you should take note.

At the risk of being kicked off Connosr, Jim Murray consistently gives this whisky top marks and I can’t really disagree with him. Ok, so I’m not convinced it’s worth > 90 points, but it’s a really good blend. At least this bottle is.

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8 comments

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

@OdysseusUnbound, this is a very nice whisky, found in many bars and restaurants, and one that never disappoints me. Not my first choice by any stretch of the imagination, but a great default pick.

3 months ago 1Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@paddockjudge I wouldn’t say it’s my first choice either, but it’s one of the few blended scotches that I find good without adding the qualifier for the price. It’s much better than JW Red (nail polish remover/acetone overwhelms every other note), Black Bottle (cloyingly sweet) or J&B Rare, the latter being the absolute worst blended scotch I’ve ever had.

3 months ago 3Who liked this?

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

@OdysseusUnbound, exactly what I was thinking. Playing the value card is almost disrespecting the whisky ...one thing I've learned over the years, price doesn't change the taste.

3 months ago 2Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@paddockjudge I agree. Price doesn't affect the taste, but the higher the price the more I wonder if a bottle is worth the expense...

3 months ago 2Who liked this?

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

@Nozinan, yes, exactly my point. Price doesn't change the taste...priced high or priced low.

3 months ago 2Who liked this?

@cricklewood
cricklewood commented

@OdysseusUnbound this review style is one of the reasons why I've always enjoyed reading your critiques. You can still enjoy these blend styles for what they are. I think we had mutual appreciation for Islay mist 8 as well...havent had that in ages though.

Ballantines finest to me is one of the better consumer blends, it's got a classy style, that to me matches the kind of sophisticated imagery from old scotch advertising. The 17 year old despite being bashed after wining Jim Murray's coveted spot is a complex if subtle dram, made in a style that isn't seen much anymore. Sadly it's priced high and the abv has dropped..where have we seen this before?

3 months ago 3Who liked this?

@Hewie
Hewie commented

Thanks @OdysseusUnbound Another one to return to at some stage - perhaps next summer I'll replace my usual blend of choice (Teacher's) with a bottle of Ballantines. I feel like I'm missing the obvious here though - what is the reference to the sticker about (the photo of the rear label)?

3 months ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@Hewie Just included the picture to make sure I got the batch/lot number correct. A blend like this one is prone to variations, so the next bottle may not be as good, or may be better. I’m also a fan of Teacher’s, but Ballantine’s seemed to be more rounded and refined than Teacher’s and even more so than Islay Mist 8, my other go-to affordable blend.

3 months ago 0

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