1980s Ballantine’s Review

1980s Ballantine's Review

Ballantine’s traces its history back to 1827 when George Ballantine started a grocery business where he also sold whisky and somewhere along the way him and his sons started to make their own blends. This is a similar story to how many of the major blends like Johnnie Walker got started (grocers making their own) and seems to be the standard scenario for long standing blends like this little 1980s Ballantine’s we’re talking about today.

In Ballantine’s Words: 1980s Ballantine’s

“Ballantine’s Finest is the oldest recipe in the current range, created in 1910 by the Ballantine’s family. There are more than 40 malts and grains in this blend. These are carefully selected from 4 different iconic Scottish regions.”

I found this little 200 ML bottle of 1980s Ballantine’s sitting on a shelf here in Los Angeles. How do I know it’s from the 1980s you ask? Well, looking at the back we see a UPC code, but there’s no government warning which was mandatory as of 1989. The inclusion of a UPC code, but the lack of a tax strip means it was post 1985 which lands this little guy roughly somewhere between 1986 – 1988. Now, let’s see how it tastes.

1980s Ballantine’s Info

Region: Scotland

Blender: Ballantine’s
Blend: Single Malts + Single Grains
Cask: Various
Age: NAS
ABV: 43%

Price: NA – Auction, Specialty Store or Private Seller

1980s Ballantine’s Review

Light amber

Butterscotch, citrus, toasted grains, fruit, caramel, spice, smoke, hazelnut syrup and a bit of OBE, malt and candy sweetness. It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s far from terrible.

What?!? The palate is richer and fuller than the already surprising nose. Notes of caramel, smoke, fruit, malt, butterscotch, spice, toasted grains, graham and a bit of citrus and OBE float across the tongue and I don’t hate how it’s doing it.

Medium finish of smoke, leather, nuts and fruit that fades into an acidic alkaline character.

Decent balance, medium body and texture like a light syrup nearing watery.

1980s Ballantine’s is fairly decent stuff. I wouldn’t go nuts and start collecting it like a mad man or anything, but it has a nice overall character to it. The aroma is a little muddled but it’s pleasant with it’s overall smoky dark sweets profile. The palate on the other hand is much more dynamic and rich with a fruity, smoky dark sweets character that continues to become more expressive the longer it’s open.

Older blends are something I’ve been starting to enjoy more and more lately. They have a character that isn’t found today which could be due to less malt being used today, younger malt is used today or just the overall quality of what they have available to keep up with demand has diminished. I’m not sure the reason but I know that anytime I see things like this 1980s Ballantine’s on the shelf I’m picking it up.

SCORE: 82/100 (B)

1980s Ballantine's Review - Score Breakdown
  • Nose - 82
  • Palate - 82
  • Finish - 82
  • Balance, Body & Feel - 82


1980s Ballantine’s is ok. Nothing special in any way, just ok.

1980s Ballantine's Label

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

Latest posts by Josh Peters (see all)

3 Responses to 1980s Ballantine’s Review

  1. Hey Josh,

    I’ve been reading and wholeheartedly enjoying your reviews for a couple of years now but this is the first time I’m posting a comment.

    A few years ago I walked into a liquor store in a seedy neighborhood in San Francisco, the city where I have lived for many years (I was born and grew up in L.A.). As I browsed I noticed a few old 375ml bottles of Ballantine’s Finest in thick, sturdy brown glass bottles on a shelf high above. Price: $13.99. I figured why not? A small risk for something that looked as though it might taste pretty good. I bought the bottle and brought it over to a friend’s place to try it. It didn’t just taste pretty good, it tasted VERY good. I didn’t know it at the time but I had just been bitten big-time by the Dusty Hunting bug and began to develop a passionate appreciation for whisk(e)y. The moral of my story is that early 1990s Ballantine’s Dusty is likely the reason that I discovered The Whiskey Jug and am a fan of yours today!


Leave a reply

Send this to a friend