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Oct 11, 2010 08:47 AM

Ballantine's 17 Year Old Wins Best Whisky

Jim Murray's Whisky Bible announces best of awards with Ballantines taking top honors.

Murray's description: “one of the most beautiful, complex and stunningly structured whiskies ever created.”

Who's tried it?

Buffalo Trace of Kentucky took home the second and third place winners with Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye (129 proof) and William Larue Weller (134.8 proof), a bourbon, respectively.

Being from Kentucky, bourbon drinking is writ into my genetic code.

I keep a few bottles in my cabinet but generally I reach for the Bulleit when it's time for a whisky branch.

The article:

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  1. Murray has a thing for blends and this is the second time he has picked a blend as whiskey of the year. Too often, I'll pick up a blend he has highly recommended and upon tasting it, say meh, it's just another blend. I also think he likes the extra headlines he gets for doing something unconventional. As such, I tend to take his ratings on outlier whiskies (blends, craft whiskies, Canadians, etc.) with a grain of salt.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sku

      There are blends and there are blends. The best day to day whisky I've tried is Nikka Whisky from the barrel. I'll take that over anything from Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, and their ilk. Toss up with Highland Park 12, and just a narrow loser to Tallisker. Seriously great stuff.

      1. re: sku

        sku, you hit it right on the head. I've sat with Jim tasting whiskies, and he really does like blends, and making a 'splash' by bringing attention to unconventional brands. I tend to agree with about 80% of his reviews, but I have very different tastes in some ways than he does. At least he tends to be consistent most of the time. I find that my tastes can range around a bit depending upon both outside and internal factors. I remember when he turned me on to Amrut Indian single malt whiskey around five years ago. First I liked it, then a few weeks later I didn't, then a few months later I did.

      2. I haven't had the 17 yr old but I can't stand Ballantine's finest, even though Jim Murray states it is the best no-age-statement blended whisky, so I somehow doubt I would agree with him on this one.

        here is a review by someone with whom I generally agree


        3 Replies
        1. re: ncyankee101

          ncyankee101, thank you for the link to Jason's blog, which I didn't know. I find his reviews more in line with my taste than Murray's. in general, though Murray's book has had value. Maybe the less authoritative tone helps, too. On Jason's recommendation, I tried Clynelish 14 recently -- deliciously complex!

          1. re: comestible

            You're quite welcome, I generally agree with his reviews other than the strongest Islays - I love Ardbeg 10, he doesn't. I actually like it almost as much as Lag 16 while he doesn't consider them in the same league.

            Also he is a huge fan of Cragganmore while I just found it OK.

          2. re: ncyankee101

            Loved this site. Jason also loves Highland Park 25 my all time favourite, other reviewers find it too "woody" I don't. I also agree with his description of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Never tried Ballantine's 17 will try Amrut and Royal Salute one of these days. Drinking Macallan 18 lately lots of rancio/sherry to that.

          3. Here is ralfy's review of the Ballantine 17-year old: