I do enjoy a (very) good blended malt, so I was pleased to be up for this one, with some seriously old blends in it. Getting a blend right is hard, but then it’s very hard to get near the balance of a well blended whisky with a single malt, particularly a single cask.
What was consistent here was what a good job they’ve done with the nose on these whiskies. The delivery doesn’t start to make good on that promise, unfortunately, until you get to the 17 year old.
Ballantines Finest, 40% A
A NAS blended Scotch.
Body - Light, lightly sweet, gentle peat and a little apple on the tip of the tongue. Quite disappointing and mild after the nose - almost watery in the delivery.
Finish - Very light wood, too light, but with a rather pleasant afternote of tropical wood that hints at something a bit interesting in the recipe. It wouldn't be the first blend that hasn't lived up to it's nose - a good marker for the rest of the range though.
Ballantines 12yo 40% A
American & European oak casks with Glenburgie & Miltonduff as the signature malts.
Nose - The same feel as the Finest, but more obviously intense, with good wood, wax and a slightly winey edge. Coconut ice, sweet berries, midget gems, new plastic and ripe green apple. The coconut ice is enormous, it’s a very good, balanced and interesting nose.
Body - Damn, this is still too light. If this was 50% we might be onto something serious, sadly this range only goes up to 43%. Better than the finest though. Putting the light demeanour to one side, there’s well balanced fruit (cherry), wood (pine) and a touch of smoke. A good level of tannins, very well blended.
Finish - Again, short and wet. Another let down in the delivery from a very good nose.
Ballantines 17yo, 43% A+
Nose - The same level of intensity with the wood, fruit and sweetshop as the 12, but a sight more drying. Even more appley, a little cheeseboard (with the wooden board), and a bit of marker pen. The drying notes and the sweet cheese goes very well together - like oat cakes, blue cheese and quince.
Body - Finally, some body! Great balance of peat and wood to the syrup fruit sweetness. Glace cherry, sulphur and thyme.
Finish - Medium, a tiny bit of bandage, top notes are quite tannic. Lingering kiwi fruit and pine.
Ballantines 21yo, 43% A⊕
The 21 Year Old has a higher proportion of whiskies matured in European oak casks compared to the rest of the range.
Nose - Incrementally more intense, jewelled, oaked sweetness - good hot wires and wax. And now the nose is becoming significant. I do love the balanced intensity blends excel at on the nose. Grown up sweets, oak furniture, dried apricot, a hint of rich peat, parsley stalks, cut tomato. Earth and acrylic paint in the empty glass.
Body - Hazelnut chocolate, sulphur, malt vinegar, bright wax, toast and honey. Quite chewy.
Finish - Long, very drying, toasted wood. Liquorice allsorts at the end. Bodes very well for what’s to come.
Ballantines 30yo, 43% A⊕+
Some of the whiskies in this blend are incredibly rare, from distilleries that are no longer in existence
Nose - Fruit bomb immediately, I’m reminded of the beloved Tomatin 30. Sweet bright wood and ripe tropical fruit. Wham bar and Chinese noodles. Slightly bread and buttery - a real ham sandwich thing going on!
Body - Beautiful, balanced, intense, bright oak and wax. Good musk and sauce. Well balanced bitterness and smoke. Almost a bourbon edge in there? Beautiful sulphur structure.
Finish - Very long, old and dignified. Balanced throughout. You can’t beat mature blends.