Monday, April 23, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #66

Ballantine's Finest
Blended Scotch Whisky
43% abv

Ballantines has a great history in Edinburgh. George Ballantine set up a grocery in the Cowgate. He dealt in whisky (not blended) as well as tea, wine, produce, etc. For those of you who know Edinburgh, it is interesting to note that his business quite literally moved up-market, moving shop from the Cowgate up to Candlemaker Row, and then up to South Bridge.

By 1922, the Ballantine family sold their interests in the company and the blend reached new heights. Greatly benefiting from smuggling via Nassau or Canada during prohibition, Hiram Walker-Gooderham and Worts of Canada bought the blend and to ensure supplies for the future, invested in whisky distilleries in Scotland. They were very short on supplies, especially of Scottish grain whisky. Could this be the era when Canadian whisky companies lobbied the government to introduce laws requiring the addition of a percentage of domestic spirits to Scottish ones (see Malt Mission #59 and #60) ?

Hiram Walker founded Dumbarton Grain Distillery in 1938, one of the largest distilleries in Scotland and, for a time, the largest grain distillery. The distillery is said to have used a rather unorthodox security force, "The Scotch Watch". Formed in 1959 by Tom Scott, originally it consisted of five geese plus a gander(named Mr Ballantine) and by 2001 the flock had grown to about 100 birds. Most of them were Chinese geese, but the regiment also counts a few European geese among its ranks of excellent guards.

An absolute testament to blender's craft, in an age when the trend is towards fewer constituent parts in blends, Ballantine's Finest is said to include at least 57 malts. The main malts in Ballantine's are Glenburgie and Miltonduff, but it is said to include or have included Ardbeg, Balblair, Balmenach, Glencadam, Glentauchers, Inverleven, Imperial, Laphroaig, Old Pultney, Scapa, and Tormore. The grain used to be Dumbarton(closed in 2002). I am not certain from where the grain component is coming today.

For an informative piece on Ballantine's, see Gavin D. Smith & Tom Cannavan's Whisky Pages


Nose impressions are light and airy but with denisty of peach, oats, and floral/perfumy aromas. Vanilla, peaches and cream or maple and brown sugar flavoured instant oatmeal. Overall, a very malty nose with little hint of oak or smoke. Clean and appetising, if not a bit too sweet.

Sour first impression. Syrupy sweetness with none of the fruity impressions at which the nose hinted. Raw corn. Has an almost mentholic or medicinal quality. Grainy and oaty. Dry finish of oat cakes and stilton.


I am tasting from a miniature and have a feeling that, based on the almost rotten sour notes that lead on the palate, I may have a bum bottle. Apologies. I will try this again at a later date to verify one way or the other.

Malt Mission #65
Malt Mission #67
Malt Mission #68
Malt Mission #69
Malt Mission #70

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Better than RED LABEL and GOOSE whisky..