...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NOT Single Malt Report: Ballantine's 17 year old blended whisky

Brand: Ballantine's
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Age: minimum 17 years
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

I'm embarrassed to say that I'd never tried any of Ballantines' range before this week.  I adore the old fashioned bottle and label of their Finest, but I learned long ago not to buy liquor just because the bottle looks good.  Ballantine's (the second best-selling Scotch blend in the world) has garnered considerable praise from Jim Murray, especially their 17 year old which won Scotch Whisky of the Year in his most recent "Bible" as well as World Whisky of the Year two years ago.  So upon Mr. Murray's recommendation, I bought a dram from Master of Malt.

On Sunday night I wrote my impressions of Murray's Bible.  Afterwards, I decided to continue the evening by tasting the Ballantine's 17 year.  But instead of using my usual tasting method, I decided to follow the procedure outlined on page 9 of this year's "Bible" edition.

I started the method, step by step, and then slowly......

very slowly......

I felt as if I were entering into another level of consciousness.....


sort of......Murray......

Ballantine's 17 Years Old (87.5) n22 the faintest of peat smoke spilling from chimneys on a late October evening in the Western Highlands. A veritable orchard of white fruits. Yet aren't those the stone fruits of Q.robur blossoming back there? Rosebud. t22 old grains in a silky vanilla knee-length dress. That stretchy toffee from the town fair, handed to you by a one-thumbed carnie. Demerara sugar swirling around morning sips of espresso. Ooooh, but with time that vanilla sex bomb dress has gotten shorter and I see you licking the molasses off the wooden spoon you naughty girl. f21.5 my second cousin's wife's great uncle's pipe tobacco. Sweet puckering Sicilian dessert wine at sunset. The sweaty muscled caramelized malt arm-wrestles the grains in a grand struggle only to end in victory for us all. Peace in our time. b22 I saved Bill Lumsden's cat from a distillery fire.  43% Chivas Bros.


And then I was back.  What happened?  Where did my whisky go?  And why am I warming my whisky glass to body temperature with my hands?

Then I looked at my notes...

Oh dear.

Well, in improper English, the whisky is good.  It reminds me of the best grain whisky I've tried, along with some very mellow very vanilla teenage Speyside single malts.  Overall, it presents a very solid front, like a well edited piece of prose -- no mislaid elements and all efforts aligned in the same cause.  Uh oh, I'm getting flowery again.

It's one of the better blends I've had and would take it over many single malts.  Though at its price range there are some tremendous single malts.  As far as blends go, it's about $20 more than Chivas 18 and $10-15 more than JW Gold Label, and I'm not sure if I'd place its value that much more (especially since, at Hi Time, I could get a bottle of Uigeadail and a Buffalo Trace together for the same $$$).  It's quite good though, and would make a nice fancy gift for someone who likes the Glens Livet, Fiddich, Grant, Goyne, and Garioch.

Availability - Some liquor specialists
Pricing - $85-$90
Rating - 87


  1. Ha! Outrageous! But, not so outrageous that it couldn't have come from Murray. In fact, it took me a while to realize that that really was your writing and not Murray's (it is, isn't it?). Maybe you can get a part-time job ghostwriting for Murray.

    1. I think it was me, but perhaps I was channeling Murray's spirit. I would love to ghostwrite for that man.

  2. What you felt was a minor case of Murrayitis. Don't worry though. Two bottles of Ardbeg Corryvrecken will clear that up in no time.

    Also, just be glad Richard Paterson didn't catch you cupping your whisky in your hand.

    1. Corryvrecken.

      Sorry, I got lost there for a second.

      I picture some great fisticuffs between Paterson and Murray.

  3. Oh, man, that was awesome! "Rosebud" - that killed me!
    You've already gotten your money's worth from the Whiskybible - Now put it down, easy, and slowly back away.

    I've also tasted the Ballantine's 17 from a sample recently - and this is what I got: Nice, smooth whisky. Thin but oily body, with "yellow" notes (see Strathisla, Balblair). Pleasant, delicate, but by no means extraordinary.

    As you can see, similar spirit with your review, although it evoked different glens for me.

    1. STRATHISLA! Shoot, I was thinking about Strathisla and left it out of my notes. I'll bet Ballantine's 17 wouldn't be that different from a 17yr Strathisla (if it were ever released).

      It's too late, the Whisky Bible is following me wherever I go...

    2. "Yellow" notes? I'd like to know what "yellow" tastes like.

    3. "Yellow" for me means the fun bakery notes from American oak: butter, sugar, and vanilla; maybe fresh bananas. Or if we're being abstract: Sunshine, butterflies, and the laughter of a small child.

    4. Yes, those remarks may need translation for public use; they do make sense to me. Yellow notes are something you find in a can of fruits in juice, like peaches or pineapple; light notes of overripe stone fruits (mangoes, peaches, apricots). Besides Strathisla and Balblair they are common in Irish whisky. Not my favorite signature in a whisky.

      Michael, for your sake and ours, you are banned from the Whiskybible, before it's too late!

    5. It's too late Florin! It's too late!

  4. Very nice review. I've been meaning to try this for ages - just never seem to get around... Now I'm going to have to put "The Bible" on my list too! Priceless...

    1. Thanks Josh! It's worth getting one edition of the "Bible" just to revel in its style. More than one edition, though...