Pros: Great low price! Great for mixing, on ice or neat!
Cons: Not complex flavor profile, very sweet (will put some drinkers off)
A Little History
Ballantines Finest is the oldest in the product line of this Scottish blender of whisky. It all started back in 1827, where an enterprising gentleman, George Ballantine, opened up a grocery store and started selling some whisky (not his creation). Eventually, he let his son take over while he set up an establishment in Glasgow that did feature his own blends. Within his lifetime he was supplying the Royal Family. Ballantines Finest that you can drink today is based on a blending recipe from those days.Today, Ballantines is very popular in Europe and Asia. In addition, Ballantines Finest has won some awards. In the International Spirits Challenge: 2006 Gold; 2005 Silver; and in the International Wine and Spirit Competition: 2006 Silver; 2005 Bronze. That said, generally, serious connosieurs of scotch do not like this blend because they consider it rather uninteresting, boring, bland. More about such observations later.
This blended whisky is so gentle and sweet that the addition of ice, in order to mellow out any roughness or burn that is common with cheaply priced whiskies, is not necessary. However, if you like a little ice, I would suggest a single ice cube.
Floral, gentle, delicate fragrance. No peat whatsoever.
Gentle sweet spice, honey, fudge, cocoa and some milk chocolate and vanilla. Ever so slight hint of peat weaved into the spice. There is complexity of flavors. All of them are in balance, none are dominant over the other.
Smooth. No rough edges here. No burn or excess heat. Sugar cane and more spice with teensy weensy whisps of peat.
This is a cheaply priced blend that does not taste cheap. To my mind, "cheap" is to be equated with whiffs of strong alcohol followed by unadulterated alcohol on the palate that burns until a I swallow. Not a pleasant experience. Ballantines Finest is a step above. That being said, this is not the best blend on the market or in the upper end of blends. Nevertheless, this is an above average blend when compared to Bells, Johnnie Walker Red and others in this price range. The defects that prevent this blend from being a great one is due to a flavour profile that is a little too sweet to the point of being like corn syrup and overall the flavour profile, while interesting initially, soon can become boring for someone seeking intriguing flavours. For those who like a lot of peat notes in their scotch, Ballantines Finest will dissapoint. If you are new to the scotch world, this is a wonderful dram that will reel you in on a lifelong adventure. Nothing in it will offend you. If you are seeking an inexpensive scotch gift of above average quality, this is a fine purchase. If you are seeking a gift that will delight a scotch connosieur, look elsewhere. Personally, I enjoy scotch and enjoy this for what it is, a simple, gentle scotch for those nights when I want to unwind with something a little sweet and without peat.
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© Jason Debly, 2009. All rights reserved.