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.
- 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.
@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?
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)?