The Saturday night get-togethers, white noise and laughter in the hallways, angry neighbors, steamy hot kebabs and the clink of flat glasses; a handful of happy memories brought by that unmistakable distinctive arrow shaped label on the dark tanned colored bottle. My relationship with the Finest goes back to a decade; one which we chose whenever there was the need to celebrate or when we just felt extravagant! Scotches didn’t come cheap and the Ballantine’s Finest made the perfect conversation starter for those early salaried times.
This drink was and still is one of those blended whiskies you just couldn’t miss. If you managed to visit your local liquor store you were sure to find a bottle of Ballantine’s neatly stacked up on the shelves, even if the ever so famous Red label wasn’t available. The Finest was not only popular but also economical, which made it a really hard bargain to pass away. This spirit is an amalgamation of over 50 single malts and 4 grain whiskies; the lack of an age statement would only mean the whiskies in the blend would be a minimum of 3 years of age.
In 2014, it was credited as the ‘No Age Statement (Standard) Blend of the Year’ by Jim Murray along with Silver and Gold medals in the blended Category at the International Wine and Spirit’s Competition -2014/15!
Now a decade later, I have the opportunity to revisit this old acquaintance and see how this old timer measures up. And what better time than this!
Eyes: Clear Gold
Nose: The first whiff gave soft, sweet hints of creamy vanilla and honey. I could also scent green apples with a slight essence of malt. There was also a play of spice, and bits of smoke and wood that lingered in the background.
Taste: On the palate, I felt it to be sweet and woody. I certainly couldn’t sense any peat or earthiness in the spirit but there was fruit; which to me was seemed like a mix of grapes and apples.
Finish: Although sweet initially, the feel began to fade leaving a very mild dryness in the throat.
Nosing the Finest was certainly a delight as it felt fresh, vibrant and brought out a variety of fragrances to the nose. The color too was clear, golden and light, however the taste lacked luster and felt as if it was almost unidirectional. There was no depth and to me it felt that the grain whiskies in the blend truly diluted a lot of the flavor.
All in all, even for the price, I wouldn’t find it to be ‘bang for the buck’; rather felt it was border lining mediocre! Certainly a letdown that has convinced me to save the rest of it only for those cocktails!
For those who love their lighter blends I would swap this any day for a dram of Vat 69 or Black Dog and for those who love a lot more malt, I’d point you to a bottle of Teacher’s Origin.