Single malt whisky - tasting notes

09 Dec 2010

Ballantine’s 17 Years old

Tasting notes by Ruben Luyten - Posted in * Blends

Even though there has been a lot of controversy about Jim Murray’s “World Whisky of the year” award in the 2011 Whisky Bible, it surely raised some interest for the Ballantine’s 17 Years old. A blended whisky that is better than all those wonderful single malts?

Ballantine’s Finest, the basic version of the range, was not worth writing about when I tried it at a party last year. In the same Whisky Bible, that one picked up the award for best blended Scotch NAS, so let’s hope for a better experience this time.

Ballantine's 17 yearsBallantine’s 17 yo (43%, OB 2010)

Nose: smooth start with pancake aromas, vanilla and creamy milk chocolate. Soft fruity aromas (lemon / lime), almonds and cinnamon. Hints of smoke. Cedar wood and a touch of leather. Mouth: honeyed and spicy start, slightly peppery and gingery. Elegant peat smoke again. Oak and toffee notes. Developing on fruit cake. Not complex but well balanced. Finish: circling around the same core of chocolate, delicate smoke and spices.

Indeed an enjoyable dram and a big step up from Ballantines Finest. It’s still quite a stretch to call this the whisky of the year, but it’s a valid choice if you’re looking for a Christmas present for your dad. Good notes for a blend. € 60 around here.

Score: 81/100

Ballantine’s 17 Years old 2.5 Ruben Luyten 2010-12-09
  • Michael

    Thank you Ruben. Interesting notes and they exactly match my own thoughts about this whisky. I have to admit that I bought it a year ago just because I wanted to understand what Jim Murray’s tasting (and opinions) are all about 😉

  • Peter T.

    Hello Ruben,
    isn´t it spelled “Ballantine´s” ?


  • Ruben

    Woops. Thanks Peter.

  • Geert

    I believe Mr Murray got a fat cheque

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  • Thomas

    Hi Ruben,

    As you can see from the older editions of the Whisky Bible, he has mostly liked the former bottlings of the Ballantine’s 17 YO, but only this year it has appeared to him that there was a significant rise in the complexity and balance.
    In my eyes there is one problem to make all this comparable. How can “normal persons” like you and me, who have to go to a shop and buy a whisky, make sure they get the very SAME (= the lastest) bottling like the one Jim has tasted?
    I bought one bottle myself after I had the pleasure to taste this new “World Whisky” in a tasting event with JM himself in Detmold, Germany, on October 30th.
    I thought back then that it was really thrilling stuff.
    What I’ve got in my shelf is a very good blend but I really think it does not come up to the bottle Jim brought.
    So if there has really been progress in the quality of this whisky in the last 2-3 years, how do you make sure you definitively have the same bottling as Jim?

    I’m really surprised no-one ever considers this when comparing their taste to Jim’s.

    Feedback would be nice.

    Great site of yours anyway!


  • Ruben

    We’ve seen similar problems in past years as well, think of the Ardbeg Uigeadail story. It could be solved by mentioning a bottling code, but I suspect that’s exactly what he doesn’t want to do, to protect himself and to please the producer.
    It’s surely a very good blend, but is it THE best whisky in the world? Don’t think so.

  • Ronald Westwood

    My son gave me one for Christmas and my daughter gave me a bottle of Jura “Superstition “- bless them. Whatever anyone else might say, these are my two favourite whiskys ( at present ). The Ballantine’s 17YO is the best blended Scotch I have tasted to date,and since I am 78 that’s a lot of drams ! The Jura is to my palate a unique single malt style and far superior to most Island whisky.
    As for Mr Murray’s and others’ comments, the advice given to wine lovers may be appropriate”, just two words altered:
    “The whisky to drink is the whisky you like”

  • Thomas

    I have to come back on this once more…
    After deciding to buy another bottle of this (this time the new bottling) at a very reasonable price at one of your (Dutch) favourite retailers, I was able to finally compare it to the old bottling which I have for some months now.

    I found that there is really a huge difference in complexity and “structure” in favour of the new bottling.

    As I said before, I tried this one in a JM tasting and didn’t find the taste in my bottle at home.
    Anyone who wonders why the “World Whisky” should be a very good blend but not much more than that, should make sure that he has the new bottling (the one without the bottleneck label and a bigger age statement in red letters on the front label).

    Ruben, as I assume you have tasted the old bottling (as shown on the picture above), I really imagine you could share my view on the difference between these 2 blends, being sold on the market under the same name.

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  • Alex Williams

    I just bought a bottle of the stuff and I am happy to report success. It is hands down the best whisky I have ever tasted. The taste is almost perfect, the finish is beautiful and long, full to the brim with amazingly synergistic flavour and the complexity is staggering; unrivalled in my eyes. It actually tastes like a perfected uigeadail. It’s everything whisky should be.

    Bottling code; LKRD3939
    297 1705

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  • franky

    I didnt really taste the fuss with this whiskey. I prefer cragganmore 12 yr, chivas 18yr, and johnny walker green label. I really think it has a short finish. Cragganmore i can almost chew in in my mouth for awhile after ive drunk it wheras this one just drops off for me then bites back a bit. Citrus slight, malt slight, smoke slight but i dont get that much flavour out of it and a bit of alcohol (delayed) on the finish which i think for this price other whiskeys do better. Admittantly i not a fan of overtly spicy/citruisy whiskys but i belive this is blended so softly for me a bit wishy washy flavour with short finish and strong citrius/spice touch of alcohol…all i dont like. Johnny blue for example which others say this tastes better than has so many distinguishable flavours (even tho it has alcohol taste). Personally id put it with dimple 15yr (but i prefer the dimple) but dimple i get for $55 and thus cost me $87. I drink the above mentioned scotches plus johnnie blue, johnnie xr21, i like honey sweet but not wine sweet or spice/citrus



November 2015
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Coming up

  • Lindores 2015 festival bottling
  • Amrut 2009 (cask #2701)
  • Glenlivet 1981 (#9468 for TWE)
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  • Laphroaig 32 Year Old
  • Glen Grant 65yo 1950 cask #2747 for Wealth Solutions
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1931 notes by Ruben

WhiskyNotes - Ruben LuytenThis blog is my personal collection of impressions, written while searching for the ultimate single malt whisky.