View Full Version : Questions about older Ballantine's Scotch

04-18-2010, 13:40
Got this on ebay last nite for the low, low price of $9.99. At that cost, no biggie if it's mediocre or a little worse. But I am curious about a few things and I hope someone can help set me straight. I apologize if any of these are asinine...my scotch background is pretty weak.

1) The label uses the term "liqueur". My understanding of that is an alcohol which contains some non-alcoholic additive and with a proof of less than 80. Is that accurate? If so, this bottle does not seem to meet those criteria.

2) It's also called a "blended scotch whisky", which I thought to mean a mix of scotch and grain neutral spirits. But this is also billed as "100% scotch whiskies". Is this basically what would be called today a vatted, or pure, malt? Or does it mean that the only whisky in here is scotch and other, non-whisky alcohol could be used?

3) In general, does scotch follow the bourbon trend of older bottlings being better? Can I expect this to be significantly superior to a current Ballentine's bottle?

I'm also interested in any other info or opinions anyone may have on this bottling. The seller indicates it's a circa-1950's release. I guess the "in use for over 125 years, established 1827" would peg it at no older than 1952 but who knows how often they updated their labels? Any reason to believe otherwise?

Anyone tried Ballantine's from this era? Any thoughts?

http://img709.imageshack.us/img709/9619/ball2.jpg (http://img709.imageshack.us/i/ball2.jpg/)

04-18-2010, 16:06
Not sure about the "liqueur" labeling. Liqueurs can be over 80 proof but are generally flavoured spirits, often with herbs and other botanicals. Seems like a misnomer in this case.

Blended Scotch is 100% whisky. It may contain a large proportion of high-proof grain spirits but as it has all been aged for at least 3 years it legally meets the requirements of Scotch whisky. Scotch can be made from 100% grain, though it seldom is. In other countries (including the USA I believe, but not Canada or Ireland) blended whisky can contain unaged grain spirit which would not meet the legal requirement in Scotland.

As for the age, most people say that whisky was better back in the day, but who knows. I find it hard to believe that whisky only goes downhill. In any case, it is higher strength than today's Ballantine's.

04-18-2010, 17:00
Thanks for the info!

Dramiel McHinson
04-18-2010, 19:15
I am not an expert on judging old bottles but Ebay is a real risky place for buying whisky especially if the seller is from Italy. I notice the bottle has imported by 21 Brands New York, NY. This company was created in 1934 by the owner of the "21 Club" in New York as an alcohol import and distilling company. David Niven, the actor, was his salesman. You may be able to find historical reference to brands imported by the company to tie it to a time period.

You can do some research on the whisky from other bottles of that period. Look for any differences between labels, caps etc. www.whiskyfun.com has a link at the bottom right of the home page that offers a lot of information on spotting real and fake bottles as well as known fakers on Ebay. An email to Serge Valentin usually gets a reply within a few days. He may even offer to drink it for you to certify its authenticity :grin:

Assuming all is well then I think you've scored a grand bottle. Ballantine's is a good blend and highly prized in countries like Korea where scotch consumption, by those that can afford it, is widespread.

04-22-2010, 13:06
Not from Italy and it doesn't seem like a good bet for someone to fake this bottle, complete with a box and inner bag only to get $10. Maybe I am naive or ill-informed, but I'd think that a faker would put his efforts into a more in-demand bottle?

I will check out info on the site you mentioned. I have been told that for the bulk of the 1940's there was no scotch distillation so if this is a circa-1950s bottle, I can expect to find younger than average whisky inside.


Dramiel McHinson
04-22-2010, 18:43
If nothing else, it's tied by provenance to a very colorful gentleman that was ingenious in ways to bring spirits to his customers during prohibition and though raided often they never found the mother lode of alcohol he had hidden in his secret room under the feds' nose. After prohibition he started his import business of which your bottle appears to be part of. For $10, that's a good score for a little piece of American history.