Ballantine’s Brasil – a whisky bastard

daenerys.jpg

 

If you’re a fan of George R. R. Martin’s books from ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ saga, a fan of the HBO hit TV series based on them or, like myself, both, you know that the world created by the mean-spirited Gandalf impersonator is filled with bastards. Not in the present meaning – arseholes – but in it’s original meaning, born of extramarital relationships. Among other things they are discriminated against in how they are called. They are not allowed to take their father’s family name, instead, depending on which of the Seven Kingdoms they come from, they assume the generic bastard name of Snow, Sand, Flowers, Rivers, Stone and so on. If you know the world of the books well, it actually makes sense.

The thing is, despite them making for the most awkward phone book ever, the bastards in Game of Thrones are some of the coolest characters. You’ll find the ultimate paladinesque goodies and the super baddies who stare into the hard core of evil before even breaking fast. As a group they are some of the most memorable and life-like bunch in any fantasy book series I read (and I’m a geek, so as you can imagine I read a few).

 

“You know nothing, Sandy Hyslop”

Why am I telling you all this, though? Well, the other day when I was mixing up some sunshine-substituting long drinks for myself and the good lady, I couldn’t help to think that Ballantine’s Brasil, my favourite shaker-filling toy of the moment, is a bit of a bastard in its own right. Chivas Brothers, the producer, went for the Brazilian association for their new creation which is understandable. Not only do they use actual Brazilian limes to create the drink but also it’s the year of the World Cup so the gods of marketing called upon them to jump in and get some equity, synergy and other clever things going on. But I’ll argue to my last breath that this drink could just as well be GoT-themed and it would work just as well, if not better!

 

“SWA always pays its debts”

After all, this bastard drink is a child of two worlds – it’s very nearly a Scotch whisky, there is no denying that, but it’s also a liqueur/infusion thing which puts it firmly outside the SWA definition of Scotch whisky and stops it from using its true name (oh, the parallels just keep piling up). Instead of ‘Ballantine’s Brasil – lime-infused whisky’, the good people at SWA decided it would be better for us all if it was called ‘Ballantine’s Brasil – a mysterious alcoholic beverage with some, albeit vague, association with a famous drink made in Great Britain, perhaps somewhere north of England’. Luckily Chivas Brothers still hold some sway over the whisky governing body and what actually made it onto the bottle is some sort of a rotten compromise. Haha. Anyway.

Just like the bastards from the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, Ballantine’s Brasil is memorable, interesting and cool. It’s really well made, using real lime peel cask infusion method, helped by an addition of sugar (2%, nowhere near liqueur territory) and vanilla flavour and the result is a dangerously drinkable infused whisky (yeah, let’s just say that and see if SWA sends the ninjas again… although I doubt it after the last time) which can be used as the perfect base for light, refreshing cocktails and spirit+mixer combos. Ballantine’s suggests a few things on the Brasil website but if you get a bottle of this and start playing around you’ll see it’s really versatile and hopefully it will inspire you to do some goodness.

Personally, I like it served very simply over ice with a dash of The Bitter Truth orange bitters and topped with soda water.

To sum up, Ballantine’s Brasil is a straightforward infused whisky which does exactly what is says on the tin. It’s flavoursome, versatile, unpretentious and easy on the eye. Get a bottle – it’s not expensive – mix up a few drinks, and get in the mood for this year’s football orgy brought to you live from the land of rainforests and supermodels. Oh, and don’t forget those Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica strips, they’re selling out fast!

PS. Winter is coming.

Comments

  1. “Targaryen” could believably be the name of a Dalmore or Glenmorangie release.

    Although there could be some interesting trademark tussles to be had should anyone want to bottle something called Oberyn Martell.

  2. It’s not only the infusing that makes it not a whisky but the abv which means it certainly can’t be called an ‘infused Whisky’, even outside of SWA regulations. As a drinker I certainly want a line drawn (via a minimum abv) or what can / cannot be called ‘Whisky’ so, even forgiving the lime, vanilla and sugar, Whisky this ain’t.

  3. Thanks for your comment Whisk Ey

    Not sure I understand why it can “certainly” not be called infused whisky because of the ABV, even outside SWA regulations? That sounds as if the 40% mark was not imposed by the SWA but rather came down from ancient Celtic manuscripts;) While I understand you want a cut-off point, it’s only reasonable and I’m all for it, the line is completely arbitrary and personally I see no reason why the rule shouldn’t be bent in case of whisky liqueurs, infusions and other concoctions.

    Perhaps ‘whisky infusion’ rather than ‘infused whisky’ would make you happier? I’m not big on semantics, I’d be happy with either, but I do want the product to be as clearly labelled as possible and personally I don’t think infusions and natural flavour additives take away from the ‘Brand Whisky’ so long as they are clearly stated and explained. ‘Spirit drink’ is just stupid. It may as well say ‘Some liquid’.

  4. Would be interesting to todo a comparative tasting with another Scotch Whisky Infusion: http://www.compassboxwhisky.com/orangerie.php

  5. Working on the retail sector of the drinks industry I’m all for innovation and thinking out of the box and even stretching the boundaries a bit.
    We desperate need new products on the whisky sector to attract the younger drinkers but also for those summer months that whisky is to hevy.
    I haven’t tried this new product but I certainly look for it now.
    So well done pernod from me and pity that the small guys like compass box can’t challenge the rigid autocracy of SWA

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