So much whisky, so little time | Singapore | Tasting Notes

Ballantine’s 17 yo ~ 80s ceramic

Hmm old jug of Ballantine’s 17, frrm the 80s meaning that the spirit within was distilled in the 60s, which means i) old school style and ii) good chance that certain closed distilleries contributed to this blend.

Ballantine’s is another old name in Scotch whisky, with a long history that mirrors the ups and downs of the industry as well, but it’s a survivor, living out a couple of whisky busts, and economic depressions. Apparently it is more popular in southern Europe than the UK itself. Its roots are traced back to 1827, to an Edinburgh grocer named George Ballantine, who dabbled in blending whisky for his customers. By 1865 the family business, now known as ‘George Ballantine & Son Ltd’, had expanded to Glasgow, and was known as a supplier of fine whisky to his illustrious customers – the firm was awarded a Royal Warrant in 1895. It was no longer after this that the Ballantine’s Finest blend was introduced by George junior.

After the deaths of George and his son, the business was sold on to Barclay and Mackinlay in 1919. The new owners capitalised on the recognition the name brought and introduced an early incarnation of the iconic blend we recognise today, but economics in this pre war period were such that Canadian firm Hiram Walker acquired the name in 1937, and just as well, for they were better positioned to leverage on economies of scale – purchasing the Miltonduff and Glenburgie distilleries that contributed heavily to Ballantine’s, and building the Dumbarton grain distillery. It was under Hiram Walker that Ballantine’s was introduced and then became popular on the Continent in the 60s. And look at the figures: In 1986, Ballantine’s was the third largest brand in the world, and largest in Europe and Korea.

One whisky bust later, the brand not only survives, although acquired by Allied in 1988 then by Pernod Ricard in 2005, it is today, in terms of sheer numbers sold, the second largest in the world, moving 5.8 million cases in 2012, though it is a drop from 6.5 million in 2011. For reference Johnnie Walker is at first spot with 19.7 million cases, but Chivas is at number 3 with 4.8 million cases. Not bad for a 190 year old brand.

Ballantine’s 17 yo ~ 80s ceramic

Ballantines 17

Nose Nose: Wow, it is certainly not a modern nose. Big and expansive in very thick unctuous way. I find coal and sooty machine oil, but also old oxidised sherry -golden raisins, overripe cantaloupe, boiling jam, and lots of thick old honey, like that rediscovered honey pot at the back of the fridge. It is a very heavy nose (good), certainly pushed along by some old bottle (jug) effect though it is just a whisper here. Moldering leather, and nut paste.

Taste Palette: Exactly as suggested by the nose, with a little burst of spice, but then disaster – the show is remarkably short, leaving a big void right where you expect some development. Surprisingly weak after a few moments in the mouth, then drying. Clearly the nose is the best part of this whisky.

Finish  Finish: Short, fragile, some grassy and feinty notes




The nose is great enough, so old school and different, but the palette falls apart. Smell it, and drink something else. A pity – this jug came from gramps.

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This entry was posted on May 26, 2014 by in Ballantine's and tagged .
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