Saturday, January 14, 2017

Review - Ballantine's Hard Fired

Ballantine's Hard Fired is a blended expression created using a double-charred cask product process which produces an expression with enhanced flavours of sweet smooth vanilla and spicey smokiness.

The signature 'Hard Fired' process takes a specific selection of American oak casks which are then charred a second time to a specific level that is judged by sight by the highly experienced coopers. These best of these casks are then filled with a unique Ballantine's blend to rest.

Ballantine's is the biggest selling Scotch whisky in Europe and second biggest worldwide with over 70 million bottles a year worldwide. The extensive Ballantine's range of blended Scotch stretches from affordable expressions such as Ballantine's Finest to the exclusive 40 years old and includes a flavoured spirit drink, Ballantine's Brasil which is infused with Brasilian lime peel.

Ballantine's whisky was first produced by a Edinburgh grocer named George Ballantine. He started his grocery business as a tea blended before using he keen understanding of blended flavours to start blending his own whiskies. Blending is now expertly maintained by Sandy Hyslop; only the 5th Master Blender in Ballantine's history since George himself. The brand is currently owned by Chivas Brothers, part of the larger Pernod Ricard group.

Our tasting notes
The nose has loads of caramel and vanilla sweetness balanced with burnt candied orange and fresh red apple. There is also underlying earthiness akin to dried autumnal leaves and baking spice such as nutmeg and cinnamon. On the palate the whisky is quite light and sweet with the sweetness of a toffeed apple; caramel along with fresh orchard fruit. Complexity comes through with the same warmth of earthy woody spices that appeared on the nose and this earthiness continues through to the woody and almost dry finish which also includes the candied orange.

What's the verdict?
This expression offers something unique for the Ballantine's brand and takes it in a different direction. The whisky stands up well drunk neat but also mixes superbly in cocktails as the sweetness and spiciness shines through. We tried it mixed simply with apple juice, in an Old Fashioned with a twist and as the warming component of a hot toddy and all worked well.

Ballantine's Hard Fired is 40% ABV and is available through travel retail for €24 (around £20). 

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