Ballantine's is a famous whisky brand that boasts a multi award winning range of blended whiskies. The core range consists of the best selling Finest, plus 12, 17, 21 and 30 years old versions. The range is amongst the best selling whiskies in the world and is currently in second place for total volume sales, behind only Johnnie Walker, selling 70 million bottles a year. Ballantine's whisky was first produced in 1869 by a Edinburgh grocer named George Ballantine. He had expanded his grocery business in to the area of wines and spirits, before deciding to start blending his own whiskies. In 2005, the Ballantine's brand became part of the large multi-national drinks company Pernod Ricard, who remain the current owners.
Our tasting notes
The colour is a deep golden amber and the nose is sumptuous and packed with Christmas-like aromas - soft dried fruits (raisins, sultanas and dates), candied orange peel, crumbly brown sugar, caramel, toasted almonds and plenty of warming festive spices (cinnamon bark, nutmeg and star anise especially). In addition to these, there are lovely aromas of fresh red apple, baked pear and a hint of milk chocolate. The scent is delicious and is like smelling Christmas cake in a glass. This feeling carries on when you taste the whisky - it is soft, velvety, lovely and makes you think of Christmas with every sniff. There is initial creamy vanilla and a blob of honey, before the notes from the nose come to the party. Especially prominent are caramel, deep sweet spiced oranges, toasted caramelised almonds, soft dried fruits (think of mincemeat in mince pies) and baked apples and pears. The soft spices build with time and are reminiscent of those used when mulling wine or cider - cinnamon stick, nutmeg, star anise, cloves and a pinch of powdered ginger. The finish is long and begins with the dried and baked fruit notes, before becoming drier, woodier and spicier towards the end.
What's the verdict?
This whisky is delicious and very easy to drink. It would offer a great introduction to whisky for someone who hadn't tried it before or thought they didn't like the stuff. It offers richness, compexity, depth of flavour and aroma and, most importantly, great value for money. If this special blend were released at any other time of the year, then it would still be lovely. However, the fact that it is being released at Christmas and the flavour profile matches perfectly with what is expected for this festive time makes it even better. Our advice is to sit down with your friends or family over the coming holiday period and enjoy this wonderful dram. We certainly will be!
Check out the video clip below, in which Sandy Hyslop explains the ideas behind the Christmas Reserve and how he selected the whiskies to be included in the blend. Enjoy.