I asked the brand team why they are aged fifteen years old, aside from fitting into a range that already has a 12, 17, 21 and 30 year old within the core range, and I was told succinctly that for the purposes of these products, and having sampled various ages during the production process, the Glenburgie 15 Year Old, Glentauchers 15 Year Old and Miltonduff 15 Year Oldsingle malt whiskies told the story of how they were the heart of the Ballantine’s blend best.
What is interesting here is that this is the first time in history that Ballantine’s, or indeed any other blended Scotch has released a series of single malts as standalone products, this is Ballantine’s opening the secret door to the malts within, explaining the Glenburgie 15 Year Old, Glentauchers 15 Year Old and Miltonduff 15 Year Old releases thus:
The foundation of the blend is Miltonduff
The heart if Glenburgie
The finish is Glentauchers
But to understand these releases, we must understand the most prolific of the Ballantine’s Prestige range, the Ballantine’s 17 Year Old
We sampled this dram fresh from a safe built into a dry stone wall overlooking the Glenburgie distillery, something that, aside from being brilliant fun only make me want to work out how I can install a whisky safe into a similar style wall in my back garden… that will likely remain on a Post-It as an idea for a while, but one day…
The nose was creamy, honeyed apples, a slight cinnamon spice with cannily and a subtle smoke note. So well balanced – well done Mr. Hyslop and your team.
The palate was thicker than anticipated, creamy again, woody, smooth with a slight spice… oh so lovely.
Age is very important to the Ballantine’s range and brand, attracting folk who are not blend drinkers but believe in age statements on their whiskies.
When trying the 40% ABV Miltonduff 15 Year Old, it struck me that I’d never tried any whisky from Miltonduff prior to this release so was intrigued by the prospect.
On the nose I was getting lots of ripe peaches, sugar-dipped apple segments and a floral note I was not expecting, whereas the palate opened up more to be woody, aromatic, less floral but lots more exotic spices with caramel notes and maybe even molten toffee too with a long spicy finish.
Then we tried the one I was most looking forward to… The Glenburgie 15 Year Old, bottled at 40% ABV… I know you shouldn’t have favourites, but…
The nose was luxurious with deep, dark fruits, fleshy red apples and honey sweetness with a subtle pear note. On the palate I was getting a more robust flavour profile with many more layers than I expected for a 40% ABV whisky; caramel notes again, deep dark fruits, burnt pineapple, tonnes of fresh orchard fruit and a short finish with a little spice. So good, I just wanted more.
Finally, the Miltonduff 15 Year Old, could it top that?
The nose was also thick, lots of orange citrus notes coming through, fruit cake and stewed berries too, raisins, loveliness. Not bad. The palate was biscuity, the orange note had been replaced with lemon citrus along with lots of spicy notes, fresh vanilla pods and quite a juicy whisky overall with a long spicy finish.
This is the distillery by the way that all production folk at Chivas Brothers get sent to in order to learn the hands on manual operations of a distillery before going to the more computer-enhanced distilleries they will likely spend most of their careers.
Everything here is done the old fashioned way, one of only two distilleries with a drum maltings, and the distillery manager, when I visited said to us that it has a “great tun, a magic tun”.
All will be priced £45 and available in select markets around the world… what I will say is that this is a superb range, better than I thought it would be and the design work, albeit slightly biased as friends of mine designed them all, is fantastic… thank you to Ballantine’s for being wonderful hosts and for treating me to some insanely fun whiskies (not to mention the rib boat around the mouth of the River Spey…!) You’re all awesome.