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Some of you know how much I rave about Ballantine's 17 Year Old, so today, looking for a decent inexpensive Scotch to help me see the end of TIFF with, I picked up their standard expression. A couple of months ago I had some with my dad, and it was better than I had remembered from my younger days. So now I get the chance to review it. Apparently, Ballantine's is relatively hard to find in the UK (which is rather shocking to me), and is also blended with over 40 different malts and grains.
The colour is golden with yellow highlights. The nose is surprisingly complex - barley, lime, apple, vanila and the softest hint of smoke. Water brings out more grainy cereal notes, like grist.
In the mouth, creamy, floral, light but with continuing complexity. More vanilla, some oak and slightly spicy (cloves and nutmeg?) as well as sweet. That hint of smoke again. Even creamier on the palate with water, adding slight hints of milk chocolate.
The finish is rather short but not in a bad way - gentle and soft with that hint of smoke carrying through. I think this is much better than it gets credit for. There is more complexity here than one would expect from a standard blend, but it could definitely use a little more heft. It is very Speysidey (apparently, two Speyside malts that are used and Miltonduff and Glenburgie, which is Ballantine's spiritual home), but malts from all over Scotland are used. It is a little too light and floral for me to call it a big favourite, but it's complexity and drinkability are impressive. You can't go wrong with this.