In 1827, George Ballantine opened a grocery shop in Edinburgh. His son Archibald opened a second shop in Glasgow. He soon had prestigious clients such as the Hindu Royal family. Therefore, George’s second son, George Jr., started getting involved in the company and they set up an exports business for wine and spirits. Over a century later, the brand was acquired by Allied Domecq, which was then bought by Pernod Ricard. Around this period in 2002, its Dunbarton facilities were transferred to Strathclyde in Glasgow. Ballantine’s is blended with 50 single malts including Miltonduff and Glenburgie.
We have a nice candied orange hue with a relatively clear body. In terms of legs, they come down quite thick but somewhat fast as well. There are no obvious whirls, maybe slight effect, when you add a drop of water, which goes to show that this blended whisky has probably been chill-filtered.
Ballantine’s Finest Nose
Notes: Walnut, Toffee, Butter, Smoke
Ballantine’s Finest doesn’t offer overt intensity on the nose. It is quite unctuous, though. There is a slight bit of complexity and a slight diversity in the notes. It’s quite lucid as well. You’re looking at aromas of fresh walnut, some toffee, a bit of butter and a whiff of smoke.
Ballantine’s Finest Palate & Mouthfeel
Primary Taste: Sweet
Opening: Red Apple, Caramel, Walnut
Heart: Salted Hazelnut, Raisin, Brine
Finish: Medium-Long [Oak, Peat, Vanilla]
Overall, the primary flavour is quite sweet with a peppery mouthfeel. It opens with some distinctive red apple notes, which are caramelized, so let’s say toffee apples. The same walnut note that was picked up on the nose appears here, too.
Once moving into the heart, we’re starting to see some salt and nut, notably salted hazelnut with golden raisin, which gives it a vinous characteristic. There’s also a hint of brine, which is probably brought along by that salted hazelnut note.
It’s quite complex for an affordable blend. It has a nice smooth palate and texture. That said, it’s not incredibly mature, but as a blend goes for this price range, it’s quite impressive.
The finish is very warming. It notably features oak notes and maybe a hint of peat but it’s quite subtle. Afterwards, there’s a long vanilla finish. In fact, the length of the finish is surprisingly lingering. Indeed, it does last for quite a while on the palate.
How To Drink Ballantine’s Finest
We always subscribe to the belief that the best way to drink a beverage is the way that you enjoy the most. Indeed, you can throw the rulebook out the window if it doesn’t appeal to you! However, if you’ve yet to try Ballantine’s Finest, we’re happy to provide you with a few suggestions.
As mentioned earlier, Ballantine’s Finest is smooth on the palate and quite easy to drink neat. Should you find it too bold for your taste, you can always add a dash of water, which helps smoothen out the edges. Otherwise, it’s a good option to drink on the rocks or even as part of a cocktail.
Finally, you can check out our guide to the best whisky glassware if you want to know more about the drinking vessels we recommend.
Consider milk chocolate or even some fresh walnuts with Ballantine’s as they align well with the whisky’s flavour profile. Meanwhile, crême brûlée will produce greater complexity while contrasting and complementing some of its characteristics.
We’re very fond of cigars here at Bespoke Unit. Therefore, we’ve considered a few options. The Plasencia Reserva Original has a medium body but a rich character. Therefore, it’s very approachable and is easy for beginners to smoke.
Overall Experience & Value For Money
The label is quite distinctive with this proud crest at the top and a wax seal at the bottom. It might feel a bit dated, but overall, I think it’s nicely presented and embraces its heritage. The screw cap features an original design with plastic elements. Perhaps it improves the seal compared to your regular screw top as it seems to work well.
In terms of occasion, you’d probably not use it for a formal event. Instead, consider it for casual drinking whether as a cocktail mixer or for drinking on the rocks. However, Ballantine’s does have a flavour profile that would lend itself to parties so it’s a great affordable option if you have lots of guests.
Similarly, if a bar doesn’t stock a good single malt or its prices are a little too high, it won’t be a disappointing alternative. As for its value, it’s about $44 RRP in the USA but you could probably find it for less. Meanwhile, it’s more like 15€ in Europe.
Admittedly, I was initially a snob when I first approached Ballantine’s and expected it to just be a mediocre blended Scotch. However, not one to be closed-minded, I soon realised that it offered a far more enjoyable experience than I had anticipated. Indeed, it’s a great affordable blend for sipping if you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful.
Charles-Philippe's work has covered a broad range of subjects from cigars and fragrances to wine and spirits. Fascinated by how history and culture together form the unique contemporary identities of alcoholic beverages, his articles follow an in-depth exploration of their development through a combination of tradition and innovation.