Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Review - Ballantine's 7 years old Bourbon Finish

This is a permanent addition to the core range of the famous Ballantine's blended Scotch whisky range, released in September 2020. The Ballantine's 7 years old Bourbon Finish has been created by Sandy Hyslop, the Master Blender for Ballantine's. He blended single malts and single grain whiskies for a traditional Ballantine's expression with a minimum age of seven years, before then finishing them in ex-bourbon casks sourced from Kentucky. The new whisky is inspired by founder George Ballantine, who started selling his own 7 years old aged whisky in the 1870s. It was also a time when Ballantine's were one of the first companies to be importing ex-bourbon casks from America.

Ballantine's whisky was first produced in 1869 by Edinburgh grocer George Ballantine. He expanded his grocery business in to the area of wines and spirits before deciding to start blending his own whiskies as others were doing around Scotland at the time, including famous 'whisky names' such as William Teacher and Arthur Bell. The extensive range of Ballantine's is now in second place for total volume sales, behind only Johnnie Walker, and sells a staggering 70 million bottles a year. The brand is currently owned by Chivas Brothers, part of the larger Pernod Ricard group.

"This new Ballantine's is ideal for Scotch lovers wanting to dabble in the world of bourbon, and for bourbon fans wanting to break in to Scotch. This is Ballantine's but with a bold new dimension, and a tribute to our pioneering heritage." 
Sandy Hyslop.
The Ballantine's 7 years old Bourbon Finish is available globally and is bottled at 40% ABV. The dark glass bottle features the classic chevron label with white lettering and gold detail. A bottle will cost £28/ $38 US.

Our tasting notes

The colour is bright golden yellow and the nose is initially sweet and vibrant. Aromas of vanilla and butterscotch lead the way and are joined by fresh red apple and toffee. Underneath are further aromas of honey and a hint of golden syrup, plus sultana and cocoa powder. Late hints of poached pear and cinnamon are also evident.

On the palate this whisky is so creamy and soft. The butterscotch and toffee lead the way and are supported by vanilla and a hint of soft coconut - these seems to accentuate the creamy feel. Then the fruit comes through, both the fresh orchard fruit and dried fruits - think of a combination of crisp red apple, green over ripe pear, sultana, candied orange peel and a hint of raisin. The vanilla note seems to grow and develop and is joined by the honey from the nose. Everything feels so soft and gentle, yet flavoursome. Late and warming baking spices put in an appearance, especially cinnamon and all-spice with a hint of white pepper. There is also something else savoury in the very back - is it a whiff of sweet peat smoke that is detected?

The finish is very nice and of decent length. The sweet and fruity notes slowly fade and this leaves the warming spices to capture the attention, plus an increasingly distinct malty biscuit-like note. Delicious.

What's the verdict?

This is a fabulous whisky for the price (remember, it is only £28 a bottle) and a good addition to the Ballantine's core range. It is so full of flavour and aroma, yet so soft and gentle on the palate. It is not the most complicated whisky, but then it does not need to be. A lovely and enjoyable blend that delivers on every level. 

It is also good to see the bourbon casks celebrated in this way. They are the work horse cask of the whisky industry and often taken for granted - close to 90% of all whisky in Scotland is maturing in ex-bourbon casks for example. Well done to Sandy and the team for creating a fine dram.

1 comment:

Richard said...

It is quite good to see that Ballantine's 7 is good for tasting neat. In my informed opinion, Johnny Walker Black 12 is excellent for neat tasting, & I love it. JW Red is bad tasted neat. Ballantine's 12 is quite fine for tasting neat, & I enjoy it. Meanwhile, the Ballantine's Finest is horrible & abysmal for tasting neat. The Finest was so horrible that I did not even want to mix it in order to dilute & mask the horror.
---It seems that Ballantine's 7 has not made it to the USA. However, it seems to be about $20-22 internationally according to Wine-Searcher.com (https://www.wine-searcher.com/find/ballantine+bourbon+seven+old+blend+scotch+whisky+scotland) At $38US (if $38 is correct), Bal7 is expensive. One can get Johnny Walker Black 12 [$25]; Dewar's 12 [$20]; Ballantine's 12 [$25](both also excellent drams) all before freight or taxes.
---With your review as a support, I will look for Ballantine's 7. Thanks for the review. Richard