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Ballantines Finest

Average score from 13 reviews and 46 ratings 77

Ballantines Finest

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Ballantines Finest

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.

@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)?


I usually don't drink cheap blends, in afraid of what I brought would go to the toilet, but I found Ballatine's Finest seemed to be a better cheap blend among other big brands and Mr. Jim Murray gave it a 96 pts score, so I picked up a 200ml bottle in a convenience store and gave it a try.

The bottle has been opened for a week.

Nose: Milk chocolate, green apple, white pepper, ginger and some peanuts butter. Slightly smoky, quite expressive.

Palate: Soft and light, apparently very speysidey. Vanilla pudding, cereal, lime peel, orange candy and some cinnamon. Very little peat and smoke in the background.

Finish: Rather short, coffee, chocolate and mango.

Balance: Very smooth and no offs, but nothing special.

Ballatine's Finest has a lot in common with Ballantines 17yo, but sweeter and less peaty for the masses, and there are a lot more grain whiskies inside. Still not in the leagues of most entry-level malts, but would be useful for a college party anyway.


After the Ballantines 1965, 1985 and 2008 I will now try a more recent bottling. The label says this was bottled on the 16th February 2015.

The nose is soft and sweet with an unmistakable smoky edge. Mildly sweet and sour at first whiff, the nose evolves toward young, yellow apples and loads of heather. Some (I would almost say obligatory) vanilla and you can state that this is a flawless and enjoyable nose.

It is nicely oily and peaty from the start. Yes, on the palate, the peated whisky is clearly recognizable. I would say Laffie. The apples, along with the vanilla, have a hard time countering this to keep it accessible. Tasted blind, you might actually confuse this with a young Laphroaig. A little bit of pepper and some salt. Surprisingly peaty (and a lot more than I remember from the older bottlings).

Salty finish, but very short.

This is serious bang for your buck. Thanks, Pat.


Ballantines Finest. Produced in Dumbarton Scotland for Pernod Ricard. Their flavor profile is based off of a combination of 50 single malts and 4 single grains most notably Miltonduff and Glenburgie. Bought for an easy $20 as it was being phased off of the shelf at a college town liquor store.

40% ABV

Color: Light Gold

Nose: Immediately sweet with fresh white fruits (apples and pears) in a simple syrup, iced shortbread, barley malt, gently floral (non-specific), bits of toffee and more icing. Very sweet and expressive start.

Body: Medium legs moving at a slower pace. Rich overall.

Taste: Barley malt, caramel, fudge, red delicious apple slices, gentle forest notes in the form of forest floor. A bit of earthy peat.

Finish: Lingers a bit. Soft and very smooth. No discernible burn. Some malt, a bit of fudge, and a light dusting of wet earth and wood ash.

Overall: All of the place? Yes. It is also a blend. Enjoyable in that right? Yes. I like that it has a bit of everything there. Its fun that way. Not sure if Id score this a 96 (2014) by Mr. Murray but I couldn't complain if this was at a bar.


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.

This whisky is designed to appeal to the masses that it does so well. So the taste will always be light and it should not be critisised for this in my opinion. It does what it does better than most.I thing this is a great whisky in its class if not the best Its almost as good as BNJ.

Nice review...Happy Ballantines Day!


I bought this bottle about 2 years ago and I have been sipping it along with various malts. At first I thought this was absolut crap. Still there was something about it (probably the minty feeling) and I kept on with it. My favourite (cheap) blend is the Ballantines 12 yo .. it deliveres a very harmonious blend of robust and smoky blend (Teachers is too unconsistant to be in the flock .. but if it were consistent, it would be highly regarded)). I always have this blend at hand .... Whilst having the time to think it through (with no snobbism intact) my mind tells me that this whisky is a very well crafted blend. As a Whisky man I must say that I secretly enjoy it .. I dont know what it is .. but I just admire this blend, the technique, Its marvellousy. I know it is cheap. I know there is alot of grain in there ... but - if there was a one grain blend I would take to the moon ........ this would be it.

I think this is one of the best whiskys in its class.


The lightest of airy blends, with evident grains and a good balance, but I don't buy the comparison with Glenmorangie at all. For $5 less, I'll take a Clan MacGregor.

@Eye-lah-Guy, you and me both, on both Ballantines Finest and on Clan MacGregor.

Here, here, Victor! Clan is very underrated-especially for the price!


Nose: a little floral, chocolate-y with coffee, some lemon citrus, and some nutty flavours. There is also moderate smoke and peat, a little in the background. This really doesn't come together for me as a harmonious whole. A nice balance of sweet and dry, though.

Taste: this is sweeter in the mouth than in the nose. All of the flavours from the nose translate effectively onto the palate. These flavours just don't work well together for me, though.

Finish: the finish is long and becomes sweeter with time. Licorice becomes very prominent through the finish.

Balance: I really don't enjoy this whisky much at all. I had high hopes for it, and it is quite flavourful, but for me this just doesn't harmonise in a way that I enjoy.

@JohnnyNorfolk, thank you for your comments. Taste is a peculiar thing, and certainly individual. I used to strongly dislike Ballantine's Finest, because I just did not like strong licorice flavours in my whisky. In fact, my tolerance and capacity to enjoy strong black licorice in whisky has evolved over quite a few years to the point that I can and do in fact enjoy it now whereas before it just tasted bad to me. At present, I would say my rating for Ballantine's Finest would be more like 80 than the 74 from this review. Despite enjoying it much more now, I still consider it to be unbalanced. As for underrating it, do note that my original score of 74 is just about on mark with the current average ratings for this whisky on Connosr of 75. So, you could say, I used to like it similarly to the average of the group, and now I like Ballantine's Finest more than does the average of the group, though, apparently I still enjoy this particular whisky less than you do. By the way, I have absolutely nothing against the category of blended Scotch, per se, and think that malt snobbery is mostly the product of ignorance and narrow-mindedness.

Reflection and retaste on Ballantine's Finest: what I didn't care for was a lack of balance among the flavours. Specifically, my reviewed bottle has a flavour which I didn't identify in the review of anise/black licorice, probably from the peat, but I am not entirely sure of that, which is so prominent that it takes the stage and crowds out the other flavours for me. That is what I don't like here. I am curious to try other bottles to see whether they are similar to mine.

@talexander, yes, it is well established now that Dramlette and I are both big fans of Ballantine's 17 yo whisky. Come to think of it, we didn't get any of it when we were last in Toronto, LAST WEEK. Did you run out? Or was it protected stock?


I have tasted old Ballantines Finest before. Earlier this year I placed a 1985 against a 2008 bottle. Both were good. Today, I’m trying an even older bottling. This Ballentines Finest comes from a bottle of 1965! It was bottled at 43% ABV (the previous ones I tasted at 40% ABV).

The nose offers young apples, vanilla, heather and quite a bit of smoke. I presume there’s a little more Laphroaig in here than in more recent versions. Very pleasant.

Wow, even after all these years in the bottle, this is still a powerful whisky. Nice peppery attack. Vanilla and apples return with fresh flowers and quite smokey. Nicely balanced with sweetness on the one hand and a salty tang on the other.

The finish isn’t particularly long, with a salt ending.

This truly is a golden oldie, but more recent bottles are also worthy. It would seem the whole Ballantines range is not half bad.


This bottle was given to me as a gift from my mum, who managed to pick up a litre bottle fairly cheap on her way back from Spain. So I guess I shouldn't really complain about it!

It's got a very light gold colour, almost yellow in the light of my room! The smell is powerful, but not really in a great way. I picked up an almost antiseptic aroma, sterile and even bland. Now I'm not sure if it's just a bad bottle, because I went back to it a few days afterwards and got the same experience.

The taste wasnt spectacular, it didnt seem as though there was much going on, but it was very strong and powerful. There was a metallic feel to it, and the finish seemed sharp and very short.

In summary, I can't imagine a whisky like this is as decidedly average and disappointing as i've found it to be, so I hope I've just had a bad bottle, but I can only score it on what I've tasted! I wouldnt buy a bottle for myself, at least until I've tasted one that comes across as an improvement.

Whilst I must says its not as good as the 17Yo I think Finest is a very good dram for the money, especially as a blend. It may be that my experience/palate may not be on a par with yours but I always enjoy this whisky. Each to their own as they say. Cheers.

I have to say I'm with IainVH on this one. I picked up a 70cl bottle in Spain for just over 12 Euro and at that price I think it's incredibly good value (it's quite a bit more pricey in the UK)and a very drinkable whisky. I don't want to rave about it because there are better blends, but I hope you give it another go Alan.


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!

Nice review, @Kalekas, and I tend to agree. I just tried a Ballentines Finest bottled in 1985 head to head with a version bottled in 2008. Both versions are very similar (the consistency is amazing, kudos to the producers), but the 'old' one scores a touch better on the nose (and a half point on the palate). I was pleasantly surprised with this blend.

Hi markjedi1; I admire your dedication in sampling two versions of the same whisky separated by almost 25 years! A fascinating idea and, if I could keep a bottle of whisky that long (and live to be 81) I'd love to try something similar. Maybe I should bury a bottle of Ardbeg in the garden for a quarter century - but by then I'll probably be completely gaga and assume I'm trying to grow a whisky tree. I'm now off to check what's in your drinks cabinet, yoinks!


Nose, Taste, Finish and Balance are graded out of 2.5 each:

Nose: So creamy and citrusy, it's like smelling a lemon mousse, doused in pear liquor. Some faint spice in the air from the grain, but not at all dominant. 2.0

Taste: Very creamy and full bodied on the tongue. I've hear this blend be described as velvety and that's exactly what it is. Very juicy,smooth and chewy. A total pleasure to just hold in the mouth and savour. 2.5

Finish: Very smooth on exit, and just the right length. Maintains its creamy texture, while sweet vanillas elegantly give way to a mildly woody and spicy finish. Highly impressive and assured. 2.0

Balance: First of all I do like a good looking bottle, and this is certainly one of the 'finest'. There's something about a screw-cap as well that I also just love, so always enjoy opening a good scotch blend. But that's all superficial I know, it just endears me to the stuff before I've even tasted it. All that aside, I have to say that this is an extremely impressive blend. One can't really find a fault with it, it doesn't try to scream and shout, it just goes about it's business with total grace and authority. It's a truly sublime whisky. 2.5

I am now starting on my first bottle of Ballantine's Finest. I am a huge fan of Bushmills Black Bush, and I would say that - at least for myself - this Ballantine's is my equivalent in Scotch Whisky. Amazed on my first sip, how smooth this Ballantine's is. I have to say that is appears to be even smoother than the 17 year. The very reason I bought the Ballantine's Finest tonight, was to compare with the 17 year. There is definitely more of the wood flavour coming out in the 17 year old, though. The body of the Finest is almost perfect, as well, although maybe not quite as heavy as the 17 Year Old. I love a heavy, thick and syrupy body on whiskies, and either one fills the bill quite nicely. Matter of fact, I am liking this Ballantine's Finest so much, that it is almost a toss up between this and my favourite single malt, the GlenDronach Original 12 Year. This is definitely one of the finest whiskies - blended or Single Malt - that I have ever had! It is very comforting to know, as well, that when I am dining somewhere, I can order a drink of Scotch that will be most enjoyable without spending a fortune! Cheers, Carl

"Very creamy and full bodied on the tongue" is just how I would describe it as well. One of the things that is very important to me. Really liked the taste as well, and very impressed with the smoothness. A very close second for me to my favourite GlenDronach Original 12 years actually. I also finally found a 17 year old. Simply had to try it, as I heard so much about it. Excellent, but not as impressive as the Ballantine's Finest, in the sense that there is such a price difference. $70.00CAD to be exact. Cheers, Carl


I taste Ballantines Finet 4 years ago and I don't remember very well the flavour of this blend. Like the Glen grant (but it's a single malt) it's not a wonderful whisky. It's appropriate like digestive after dinner or like correction with ice cream, or with cocktail. I'll taste the older version before to make a several review to this brand.

With the greatest of respect why are you reviewing this product if you don't remember the taste? This is a blended whisky so you pay blended price for it (so not as much as a single malt). without your review this product scores an 81 which i think is a fairer score.

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