Many Scots will be surprised to learn this is the 3rd best-selling scotch whisky in the world and the number best-selling in Europe selling 5.3 million cases per annum. That’s 2 bottles sold every second. This is not a common blend in Scotland or the UK and this staple of Pernod-Ricard drinks stable is hard to buy in the UK. Bizarre you might think as it is made there.
Like many successful whisky blenders the founder of Ballantines George Ballantine was from the central belt of Scotland just outside Edinburgh where he opened a grocery business in 1827. After completing a 5 year apprenticeship as a shopkeeper at the ripe old age of 13 he set up his own business and opened grocers in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.
George Ballantine was a whisky enthusiast and started with vatting single malt whiskies as well as buying casks in American White Oak whish he believed were best for the maturation process. However it was his sons who started blending the product we would be more familiar with today.
While Archiebald Ballantine concentrated on the grocery business, George and George junior focussed on the whisky business and started George Ballantine and Son Ltd. George senior retired in 1881 and left George Junior to continue the business. The business did well however George sold out to Barclay and McKinley in 1919. They decided in 1937 that they had taken Ballantines whisky as far as they could and whisky mogul Hiram Walker bought Ballantine in 1937.
It was Hiram Walker that decided to secure new distilleries to secure malt for Ballantines products and he purchased Miltonduff and Glenburgie distillery. He also purchased the largest grain distillery in Europe just outside Dumbarton in Scotland.
At a time when the whisky industry was focussed on the American and growing Japanese market Ballantines focussed on the relatively untouched European whisky market. It was this decision in the 1960’s that turned Ballantines into the powerhouse it is today. Success in Europe was not it’s only achievement with Ballantines being the number one whisky sold in South Korea. This success is likely to continue with Ballantines installing only its fifth master blender in 2006, Sandy Hyslop.
There is now a full range of Ballantine blended whiskies including 12, 17, 21 and 30 year old expressions as well as the core Ballantines Finest.
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