Yesterday we tried some Ballantine’s from the 1980s and today we’re trying some early 1950s Ballantine’s 17 Years. Being a whisky from around 1957, and being 17 years old, means that all single malt and grain components are from 1940 or earlier. Though due to WW2 it’s possible much of the whisky in here is older than 17 years and was distilled in the 1930s. From 1939 – 1945 many distilleries had shut down due to the war making supply from that time scarce.
In Ballantine’s Words: 1950s Ballantine’s 17 Years
“This Liqueur Blended Scotch Whisky has been Matured in Oak Casks for 17 YEARS. It is the product of Scottish premier Distilleries and every cask is thoroughly examined before being bottled under the most hygienic conditions. This whisky fully satisfies the most exacting requirements of the connoisseur.” – From the bottle
Bottles from this era can be a bit tough to date, but thankfully there are a lot of clues on the Ballentine’s label that can help us peg it as being a 1950s Ballantine’s 17 Years. The label says “IN USE FOR OVER 125 YEARS” which puts it somewhere between 1952 – 1961 because in ’62 they changed it to 135; the locations it lists are Edinburgh and Dumbarton and the label switched to saying Dumbarton & Elgin around 1958/59. All signs point to this being a 1950s Ballantine’s 17 Years and with that, let’s get on with the review!
1950s Ballantine’s 17 Years Info
Blend: Single Malts + Single Grains
Price: NA – Auction, Specialty Store or Private Seller
1950s Ballantine’s 17 Years Review
Sherry, toffee, roasted nuts, smoke, saline, dried dark fruit, nutmeg and a bit of anise and OBE. Quite nice.
Sherry, cinnamon, toffee, nuts, dried dark fruit, smoke, malt, nutmeg and saline with a touch of anise, char and OBE. Quite nice indeed!
Long wind-down of dark fruit, smoke, spice, sherry sweetness and char.
BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
A good sense of balance, heavy full body and a syrupy feel.
When first opened this 1950s Ballantine’s 17 Years was one big dollop of that funky musty OBE quality but after about a month of being at 3/4 full it started to shed the funk and this wonderful sweet and smoky character appeared After about 6 months it evened out and changes over the last 2 months (8 months now) have been minimal. Old bottles like this can require patience, but often they’re worth the wait.
The aroma, palate and color of this 1950s Ballantine’s 17 Years portray a blend that relied heavily on whiskies aged in sherry barrels. This is a big departure from what was being sold even in the 1980s; it’s also a character that seems to be much more prevalent in blends from the 30s, 40s, 50s and even the 60s. Everything I’ve had from that era seems have a richer sherried character than their modern counterparts, which makes sense when thinking about global supply and demand.
Whisky from these bygone eras can fetch a pretty penny and while taste and price might not fully balance out there’s something about tasting a piece of history, a piece of the past that’s alluring to me. Distilled right before WW2 broke out these casks sat through uncertain times and the bottle sat on shelves through McCarthyism, Stalins death, Churchill’s re-election, segregation in school being ruled unconstitutional and the start of the Vietnam war. This bottle of 1950s Ballantine’s 17 Years has lived through a lot and now I’m drinking it… amazing.
SCORE: 89/100 (B+)
1950s Ballantine's 17 Years Review - Score Breakdown
- Nose - 89
- Palate - 89
- Finish - 89
- Balance, Body & Feel - 89
1950s Ballantine's 17 Years is rocking.