I love Johnnie Walker Black and always have a bottle on hand, but it costs $25 which gets me a 1.75L bottle of Ballantine's Finest with change to spare. And when I'm drinking it, I don't feel as though I'm "settling" for something boring or uninteresting. When in the mood I can find plenty to enjoy, even if Ballantine's (or any other blend's) charms are more subtle. I have to be drinking Passport or Clan MacGregor to feel as if I'm really wasting my time, but those blends are light years more bland than the ones we've been discussing.
I've mentioned this before but it's worth repeating that Jim Murray wrote a terrific short essay on the virtues of blended scotch whisky in the 2009 Whisky Bible. It can be found in the section of the book that precedes his reviews of the various blends, and far better articulates what I'm trying to say here on the matter. And here's something else worth reading:
"Ballantine’s, the world’s No. 2 range of blended Scotch whiskies, is raising a celebratory dram to the news that whisky connoisseur Jim Murray has named Ballantine’s Finest as the Scotch Standard Blended Whisky of the Year. The awards have been published in Jim Murray’s 2009 Whisky Bible, an annual publication that is regarded as the world’s most influential book on whiskies from around the world.
Ballantine’s Finest, the leading Scotch whisky brand in Europe with the No 1 position in 12 countries, contains more than 40 different malts from the four renowned whisky regions of Scotland – Islay, Highlands, Speyside and Lowlands. Its elegant signature style is a balance of soft and sweet, due to the key malts Glenburgie and Miltonduff.
As a standard blend Murray describes Ballantine’s Finest as “a major work of art” and adds that only by taking a mouthful can you “experience the work of a blender very much at the top of his game”. He goes on to describe the blend as “a playful balance and counter-balance between grains, lighter malts and a gentle smokiness”.