Ballantines 12 Year Old- My Experience

Ballantine's 12 Bottle Shot.jpg

If you were to walk past me on a busy street there is many things that you might think. ‘That guy kind of looks like Wolverine. You know, if Wolverine really let himself go’ wouldn’t be too far off the mark or ‘I wouldn’t trust him around my pic-a-nic basket’ is a phrase that comes up way too often if you ask me.

Something that always surprises people though is the fact that, in high school, I studied a little bit of philosophy. That’s right people; don’t judge a book by its cover. Or in this case don’t judge the man by the vacant, drooling expression across his face. He’s probably thinking deep, deep thoughts under it.

Anyways, one of the main philosophical points that I still have a very basic grasp on (high school was an extremely long time ago) is the idea of Rationalism vs. Empiricism*.

For those without the benefits of a classical education (an almost Die Hard quote- oh yeah!) Rationalism is the theory that we are born with a certain amount of logic and, thus, a certain amount of knowledge is available to us from the day we arrive screaming onto the planet. Many great minds have backed this theory over the course of history.

I, however, tend to set my tent up in the other camp- Empiricism. This is the theory that any attainable knowledge can only be ascertained by experience through our senses.

I’ve always felt myself leaning towards this side of the argument and these feelings have only been reinforced since I’ve had my own little person to nurture into a fully working adult. There isn’t a day where I don’t have to stop him touching something hot/sharp/electrified and surely, if innate logic was inside that little head of his, these things would be less of an issue.

Now, what in the name of Ryan Gosling does this have to do with whisky? Well, everything really.

A few months ago I was lucky enough attend a tasting with Ballantines Master Blender Sandy Hyslop and learn the specific intricacies that go into making the revered Ballantine’s 12 year old. Tiger recently sat down (or stood up- I wasn’t there) to a similar thing in a Google hangout and noted down his eloquent thoughts about it here. I won’t waste your time repeating what he has already told you but there was one point Sandy mentioned that really grabbed me and has had me thinking ever since.

Sandy was explaining that every week he and his blending team, consisting of six highly trained individuals, gather to nose all the new spirit that has been produced during the past week at their distilleries. Nothing out of the ordinary there, having a team of blenders helps create a consistency that might not be guaranteed with only one individual. It’s what Sandy said next that really grabbed my attention (not that I wasn’t paying attention before that). He mentioned how everyone of his team had slightly different ideas of what the new spirit nosed like- and how that was okay. What was more important was the consistency of their answers.

Now, I’m not saying one said blocked up chimney in the depths of winter and the other said fruit salad on a sunny day- the answers were all fairly close in profile to one another but there were subtle differences. Their answers were based on their individual experiences- as are anyone’s when they’re producing tasting notes of their own.

This is part of the intrigue of single malts, even at the fresh-faced new spirit stage. You can gather with a group of people and everyone will have a slightly different take on it. It’s one of the reasons we love single cask whiskies. Each one is that little bit different- have a look here, here and here for examples. A tasting with Sandy Hyslop however is rarely about the single malts- we were there to learn about a blend. Ballantine’s 12 year old.

A blend should be a number of things but if I were to stick it a label with the most important word across the entire category that word would be- ‘CONSISTENCY’. The flavours of Ballantine’s 12 year old appeal to millions of people across the world with a multitude of different experiences and it’s Sandy’s (and his mighty team of blenders) job to make sure that the distinct flavour of Ballantine’s is maintained. They have to pool there collective adventures to make sure that the seven key characteristics of Ballantine’s 12 year old are always at the forefront of the experience.

What are the seven key characteristics? Well here’s your chance to not only find out but win some exclusive Ballantine’s bootie for your trouble.

Below is a photograph of a bottle of Ballantine’s. There will be no prizes for guessing that I’m afraid. What there will be prizes for is noticing that within the bottle are subtle clues as to what might make up the profile of Ballantine’s and we want you to send us you answers. As I said there are seven in total and if you’re stuck for ideas then head over here for a hint.

If you’ve tried Ballantine’s 12 year old before you might have a head start.


When you have your answers drop us an email at the address below in the terms and conditions and we’ll use our patented Maximiser Randomiser (i.e. Hoban’s tumble dryer) to pick a winner.

Oh yeah. There is, as I mentioned, some Terms and Conditions that will apply-



By entering this competition, you agree to the Terms and Conditions which can be found below.

You can enter the competition via email at the following address

“By entering this competition, you agree to the following terms and conditions of entry: You are of legal drinking age and a resident of one of the permitted countries listed below. The competition closes at 11.59 on 07/08/2013. To enter the competition, you must correctly provide all 7 flavours of Ballantine’s 12YO and one winner will be randomly selected from all complete & correct entries. Only one entry allowed per person. The prize consists of a Ballantine’s 12 Cocktail book “The Collection”, Ballantine’s ice bucket and Rolf Sach’s limited edition design glass & coaster gift pack. There are no cash or prize alternatives. You give consent for Edinburgh Whisky Blog to identify & use your name on the blog as the winner of the competition. The winning entry will be notified by email and no responsibility is taken for incorrectly supplied email addresses. You give consent for me to supply your name and address to Chivas Brothers Ltd (owner of Ballantine’s) to send you the prize. The winner must provide sufficient legal proof of age to Chivas (passport, drivers licence or as otherwise notified by them) as a condition of accepting the prize; and you will personally need to accept delivery of the prize from Chivas or its representatives. They reserve the right to check proof of age on delivery as well.

Countries with permission to enter: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, German (German language t&cs available upon request), Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Poland, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden (Entrant must be 25 or over), Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey (Entrant must be 24 or over), Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay (Spanish language T&Cs available upon request) and Venezuela.
Best of luck and if you don’t win- just put it down to experience.


*(If you’d like to learn more on the subject please don’t just listen to my ramblings. Try a book at your local library!)


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