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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Ballantine's 23 year old blended whisky, for Travel Retail

Ballantine's 17 year old is one of the best blends on the market, when bottled at 43%abv. At 40%abv, it is not. Unfortunately, I think the 43%abv version is only available in the US (though it might be down to 40% here too). When I was in Japan five years ago, the 17 was only ~$45, but I didn't buy it because of the 40%. This year it was up to $80ish, even with the great exchange rate, but at the same strength. So I did not buy it this time either. (Though there was a tempting 48%abv special edition.)

Meanwhile, the whisky section of all the Haneda Travel Retail shops were barren:

They certainly had no Ballantine's 23-year old, watered-down to 40%abv, likely containing 23+ year old Glenburgie, Miltonduff, Scapa, and Glentauchers. So I went in on 2oz of a bottle split of the 23 just to see what I missed out on.

Brand: Ballantine's
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Type: blended whisky
Age: minimum 23 years
Maturation: first-fill American oak
Bottled: 2019?
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? probably
e150a? probably
(from a bottle split)


The mild, well-produced nose starts off with yuzu, wheatgrass, and caramel. Small notes of butterscotch, peach, and corn chips stay back. Give it 30 minutes, though, and it's all vanilla frosting and cream soda.

Too bad the palate goes a different direction, extremely woody right from the start. Vanilla, maple, bitter oak, a little bit of paper, too. Notes of simple syrup, bitter citrus, and ginger powder show up now and then.

Sweet and tangy, the finish leans mostly on vanilla, cream soda, and mint candy.

On the rocks, it's all vanilla and pencil shavings.


There's an official Ballantine's video about the 23yo, and I lost count of how many times "vanilla" was spoken in it. Yeah, there's vanilla, so much so that it almost tastes like an NAS blended Canadian whisky. May I repeat this is 23-year-old scotch.

I had expected to write, "If only it was bottled at 43%abv...", but now that I've actually tried the whisky, nah. Three more alcohol points wouldn't have made much of a difference, and I'm not sure how that oak would have croaked at 46%abv. The nose was nice though.

Availability - It has escaped Duty Free!
Pricing - $120 (Japan) - $225 (Europe)
Rating - 78

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