The growth of the Scotch industry has led to some changes, one of which is the increased demand for more information and transparency from brands. Now, we all know that those who wish for more information are only a small portion of the market. This leads me to wonder if this is a case of “chicken or the egg?”
I don’t even know which to classify as the chicken or the egg in this situation, but one of the two must be the curious customer. It’d be pretty hard to pin down the who, where, and when of this. There are billions of people in the world, after all. Each individual has their own story to live and tell. One can only be sure that a person’s love for whisky must have led to the increased curiosity. This love and curiosity is also most likely transmitted from and to other people.
The other of the two would be people who work in the whisky industry. With single malts having only existed (in the way they are currently understood) since the 1960s, it’s safe to say that the blends did most of the leg work for Scotch. If it wasn’t a customer who asked inquisitive questions about the blend/s they liked, then it’s more likely that whatever information given out by the presenter or seller was intended to be a unique selling point. Remember, there was no Diageo or Pernod Ricard decades ago. A lot of blends were small, family-owned operations. So, it’s highly possible that someone from the family sold their own whisky and got customers hooked, and this love led to added curiosity which translated to the demand for more information.
One of these successful blends which bears its family’s founding name is Ballantine’s. According to an online Ballantine’s tasting – which recently attended and from which these samples came – the brand does really well in Europe. But in Asia, Chivas Regal has always been better known. So, from my perspective, Ballantine’s has always been seen by the region as the other blend by Pernod Ricard. Maybe Pernod thinks it’s time to change, that since they’re pushing the brand in the Philippines. Because my homeland is almost always behind in alcoholic trends, it’s highly likely that they’ve already started pushing the brand in other parts of Asia.
Due to the success of blended Scotch, many people have always been curious about their recipes. Of course, the brands are tight lipped about the recipes, and blending isn’t easy. There is no fixed recipe to follow, since there will be inconsistencies with the ingredients despite being of the same age, ABV and cask influence. It’s always nice to learn a little more about them though. We’ll take what we can.
In 2017, Pernod Ricard decided to reveal and bottle the three core single malts used for Ballantine’s blends, these three being Miltonduff, Glenburgie, and Glentauchers. Fans of independent bottlers will be more familiar with these malts, since they are mainly used for blends and were rarely seen as distillery bottlings previously.
I’ll be honest: aside from the Aberlour A’bunadh, I was never a fan of Pernod’s whiskies. I don’t know whether these three single malts were widely recognized as the core single malts for Ballantine’s. This is unlike Diageo, where Caol Ila, Clynelish, and Cardhu were already well-known as their core malts, even back in 2014 when I was new to whisky. Regardless of my thoughts, I applaud Pernod for listening to the market’s demands. Of course, we also have to give credit to Compass Box and Johnnie Walker Green Label for paving the way for this.
Ballantine’s Miltonduff 15 – Review
Color: Oolong tea.
On the nose: Pleasantly fruity and nutty. I immediately smell a bold aroma of honeysuckle and elderflower… but only its front part, if that makes sense? It’s rounded off by a subtle pepperiness and medium aromas of caramelized nuts, hazelnuts, and apple juice. The tail end is finished off by a long floral nutty aroma that’s complemented by honey, vanilla, starfruit, and Korean pears.
In the mouth: This is disappointingly not as fruity and nutty as on the nose. I initially get a bitter taste which makes me think of soap, leather, dark chocolate, and cloves. This is what I tasted for a while. As the bitterness tones down, it becomes more of an enveloping background taste… After the bitterness lets up, I get subtle tastes of starfruit, elderflower, honeysuckle, honey, vanilla, and caramel.
Not bad for my first taste of Miltonduff as a single malt. I love how uncommon the nose of this is. The honeysuckle and nutty notes are something I welcome very much. Despite the low ABV, it’s also surprisingly full.
Sadly, it’s a different story in the mouth. The bitterness really kills the vibe. I’m guessing this came from the fast dilution the big brands usually like to employ. The bitterness overshadowed the interesting taste hidden in this whisky. It’s a shame. I really think that I’d like this whisky more if the honeysuckle and nutty notes were more expressed.
Ballantine’s Glenburgie 15 – Review
40% ABV. Average price of €48.69, according to the Whisky Base.
On the nose: Light and thin aromas of honey, caramel, dehydrated lemon peels, starfruit, candied orange, and honeydew melons. I don’t get any more fruity notes. More spices and confectionery notes such as bits of pepper, vanilla, toffee, cinnamon syrup, and salted caramel.
In the mouth: I get light tastes of confectionery, fruits, and bitterness. Pepperines, astringency, cloves, leather, honey, apple juice, starfruit, lemon peel oil, vanilla, cinnamon, lime-flavored candy, caramel, dates, dried apples, and cantaloupes.
A more balanced whisky in terms of how it present itself on the nose and in the mouth, but there are slight differences between the two. I get more fruity aromas as compared to in the mouth where I get more confectionery notes. The nose also seems thinner while the mouth has a slightly heavier mouthfeel.
Aside from the astringency, which I think comes from the quick dilution, I like the flavors I get in this. It’s a good first experience with the distillery. This is enough to make me more interested in Glenburgies bottled by independent bottlers.
Ballantine’s Glentauchers 15 – Review
On the nose: Lots of fruity, floral and tart aromas. I get light aromas of starfruit, cantaloupe-flavored sweets, pepperiness, green apple Warheads candy, salted caramel, honey, vanilla, orange-flavored medicinal candy, toffee, gooseberries, dates, raspberries, and citrus peels.
In the mouth: Pretty similar to the nose. I get light tastes of caramel, green apples, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, vanilla, lime peels, Korean barley tea, starfruit, pears, and green mangoes.
This is my favorite among the three, mainly due to the lack of bitter and astringent taste. I also like the flavors I get from this. But, I’m not surprised as I gave the only other Glentauchers I tasted an 8/10. There’s a good balance of fruit and confectionery flavors in here as well.
With another positive experience from Glentauchers, I get the impression that this is an underrated distillery by Pernod Ricard. Aside from Glenburgie, I’m going to explore this distillery more as well.
All images are courtesy of The Whisky Exchange.