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Drink Review: Ballantine’s Finest

Blended from more than 50 single malts (with particular emphasis on Miltonduff and Glenburgie) as well as 4 single grain whiskies. Ballantine’s Finest is a smooth, satisfyingly modern blend, now picking up serious momentum in overseas markets under owners Chivas Brothers.

Ballantine Finest:

Ballantine’s first came into circulation in 1827; in 1877, the company merged with brothers Maurice and George Gordon’s W.P. Lowrie to form the W.P. Lowrie and Company. In 1913, the renowned Ballantine’s brand was merged with W.P. Lowrie and Company. In 1891, WL Lowrie and Company acquired the old Glenburgie distillery from the Distillers Company and three years later were also given the Miltonduff distillery by the DCL too. Glenburgie and Miltonduff both produced a lot of grain whisky which helped to blend the brand more. Ballantine’s are one of 5 Scotch brands to still remain within family ownership (Ballantine’s) and are now made by Chivas Brothers at Dumbarton.

These days they are of course, best known in the US as one of the big boys of American Blended Scotch whisky. However, they have never really been dissassociated from their Scottish beginnings and the ‘only Scotch with Blended on the Label’ campaign they ran in the US in the 70s and 80s was one of the longest running advertising campaigns ever in that market.

 

Tasting Notes:

The nose is quite fruity brisk with notes of red currants, brown sugar and sherry. There’s a hint of smoke and oak here too. On the palate it’s a little more restrained, but still considered blend with medium weight and a long finish. It’s sweet, fruity and fresh, with hints of oak and sherry apparent. The midpalate is quite dry however, but this adds to the overall balance. It’s lively, and an easy drinking spirit.

Ballantine Finest Review 1:

Scotch whisky label Ballantine’s.

Ballantine is possibly the best known of Scotland’s distilleries. Famously advertised by Winston Churchill as ‘The King of the Island’, it’s also the undoubted king of the Skye distillery coast.

Ballantine Distillery is located near the village of Carbost on the Isle of Skye.

To be precise, the distillery is located on the south-west coast of the Isle of Skye, just to the south of the village of Carbost. It’s a remote location and one of the highest distilleries in Scotland. Its water source the Snizort River, is several miles away from the sea and has a unique mineral profile. Its peaty, salty, and spicy character is clearly seen in the product.

For years, the distillery was owned by owners of the Johnnie Walker distilleries and under their ownership its product was largely used for Johnnie Walker blends. This has changed in recent years and it’s synonymous with the now legendary ‘Maltman’ blends.

Ballantine Finest Review 2:

The ‘Maltman’ blends are blends developed in the last few years by John Glaser, an American blender with a family history of distilling and one who knows his whisky. The Maltman’s have been well received for both their quality and their sheer variety, with independent reviews praising both the quality of the blends as well as the marketing lorries driving them around the country. The series of blends which can be seen in the UK comprise of ‘Shots’, ‘Malt’ (additional single malts), ‘King of Clubs’ (30 or so different malts) and ‘Swede’ (blends of the previous ‘Maltman’s). In the US, there’s the aforementioned ‘Only Scotch with Blended On Label’ series, but more on those shortly.

 

Tasting Notes:

The nose brings a vast array of tastes, from a muddy sea to a little damp earth to some very salty peat. It’s not as intense as some peaty malts of the UK mainland, but it’s not without character. There’s a certain earthiness here too, with a hint of dried fruit – perhaps a bit like red apples. The palate is quite briny to begin with, but it’s quite dry, with the slightly sweet sherry notes adding a certain amount of sugar and balancing strength to the spirit. It’s rich and full and the finish is long and just a little peppery.

Ballantine Finest Review 3:

Ballantine was ‘The Father of Aviation’ is a fitting tribute by Alan S Moore from the American web site The Depot.

History has it that the original distillery, built in 1896 by Sir Archibald Cameron, was closed less than a decade later. Following several further attempts at distilling, Cameron closed for good in 1921.

After a spell of being used for warehousing and a sheep shed, Ballantine’s was purchased by J.B. Dick and Son Ltd in 1926. Production began in 1927 and in 1934 the Ballantine’s brand was sold to the W.P. Lowrie and Company. Lowrie and Company continued to operate Ballantine’s until 1970 when it was sold to a Phillips subsidiary and then bought two years later by American Brands Inc for $15 million. American Brands quickly sold of the Sandburg Distillers Private Label division, which owned Ballantine’s, to the present owners, Chivas Brothers Ltd.

Written by Mark Adams

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