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Thursday, 23 April 2009

Down by the Loch's with my Friend Ballantine...

Well, the sun is still with us and it seems to make total sense to continue our recent foray into a few tasty and interesting blends. As well as experimenting with chilling a few things in the freezer (the sample of Johnnie Walker Gold was really nice, sipped from a chilled vodka 'flute') we've been going through a few decent blends that we should have reviewed earlier.

First up - something predominantly from the west coast. I first bought a bottle of this last year, on the splendid advice of Mr Swinfen at the Whisky Exchange (cheers Matt!) and have never looked back.

Campbeltown Loch 21 year old blended whisky, made by the folks at Springbank, actually has some seriously old whiskies thrown in- as rumour would have it- around 60%- and boy can you tell!

Campbeltown Loch - aged 21 years - 40% abv - 70 cl

Nose: Lots of plump, dried vine fruits and a wonderful waft of a Clynelish-like waxiness hit you straight away- and we're in...some perfumed notes, slightly wet wool (the Springbank making itself known) and fudge sundae's all coming to the fore. The grain is there, but doesn't dare overstep the mark, leaving you with plenty of expectation for the first sip....

Palate:...Which certainly continues where we left off! Lots of smooth, creamy fudge, but a fair amount of lavender like floralness, comb honey and the faintest hint of Fisherman's friend. Again, it's clear that the old Springbank/Longrow is there in droves really supporting the excellent balance this blend has.
Finish: Slightly rose like floral elements, and freshly cut apple slices combine to make a superb refreshing length, with a little post-palate ginger thrown in to inflame the mouth.

Overall: I'm onto my 2nd bottle of this and I often find that my whisky loving friends seem to gravitate towards it if they want something lighter than a single malt. Campbeltown Loch is a perfect choice if you want to get something truly decent in as a really solid, all-round blend.

Onto something now that I must confess, was one of the first whiskies I rather foolishly 'mistreated' at a friends wedding and ended up paying for it the day after.... hopefully it won't evoke the same nauseating memories this time around!

Ballantine's Very Old Scotch Whisky 17 year old - 43% abv - 70cl

I love the old fashioned feel of this bottle- its screw cap and crinkle cut label, remind me of just how timeless and enduring certain designs of whisky bottles have become. Anyway...

Nose: Much more closed than the Campbeltown Loch, you really have to work hard on the Ballantine's to unlock its contents. But when you do.... subtle ginger spices, pastry, a strange but appealing slightly floral 'powdery' note comes through, which takes me back to when you used to paint with those classic powder paints at school!!! Now there's an aroma I haven't nosed for a long time!! given a little time and some cloves become evident and some very lightweight cereal and hazelnuts.

Palate: A burst of rich honey, then toffee is the first noticeable flavour, but then we're into zesty orange, more sliced apple with a hint of chili and then milky chocolate. It's a really subtle blend, unlike some, which muscle in on the tastebuds for supremacy, this one allowing you time to contemplate just what's in there.

Finish: Milky coffee notes and a very warming, but dry note, like the taste of a good cigar, half way through smoking remain in the mouth for a very long time.

Overall: A radically different blend to the Campbeltown Loch- one feels bouncy and light, rather like taking a Spaniel for a woodland walk, the Ballantine's, those slightly laid back and refined moments of contemplation that one looks for after a hard day spent pottering around the antique shops in Windsor in your classic MGB. (certainly in my head anyway!!!)
Both these whiskies are a treat to the senses and we'd urge you to seek one or both out if your blended collection needs a new soul mate...