Review: Bell’s 8 Years Old Blended Scotch Whisky

Diageo

40% ABV

£Discontinued

Score: 84/100

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What they say:

Afore ye begin

The distinctive taste of Bell’s comes from bringing together a select blend of grain and fine malt whiskies, all matured in selected oak casks for a richer flavour.

Gathered from whisky heartlands to include flavours like the smoky sea salt of the Islands and the fresh, sweet malts of Speyside they’re brought to the master blender at the Blair Athol distillery. There he marries them with our own rich, spiced and nutty malt to create Bell’s distinctive blend.

It’s a recipe that dates back to the 19th century and has been raising the bar – and been raised in bars – ever since.

Blair Athol

The very heart of Scotland and the place Bell’s calls home. The rich, nutty signature malt is distilled here then added to the blend. Full of almonds, ginger cake and spices it gives Bell’s that unique, sumptuous, richness.

Inchgower

The second Speyside malt brings a distinctive coastal flavour – rich and nutty, with a fresh salty sea breeze.

Dufftown

Classic Speyside freshness contributes apples, flowers and honey, giving the blend a refreshing vibrancy.

Glenkinchie

Classic flavours from the ‘garden of Scotland’ give the blend smooth malt, late summer fruit, and sweet toffee characteristics.

Caol Ila

From the north east coast of Islay come smoke and embers, giving the blend the warmth of an open fire on a winter evening.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Quite soft and gentle. Malted barley and hints of cut herbs and a fresh floral note. Cereal and grist with a little honey.

Palate: Quite smooth, medium body. Barley and cereals with nut oils, hints of wood and spice.

Finish: Short with notes of fruitcake and smoke.

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What I say:

Found at the back of the kitchen cupboard, I really can’t remember if I received this as a wedding favour or picked it up somewhere on the road during our whisky travels. I’m guessing I stashed this away thinking it would be good for making a whisky cream sauce or other culinary use. Once rediscovered I realised this is a now extinct expression from the Bell’s stable so worth a review – luckily I am trying a handful of blends at the moment so this one slipped in perfectly!

The top selling UK blended scotch since 1978 – it is hard to find a pub that doesn’t have this on an optic behind the bar.

Colour:

Rich Sauternes Gold (8/20), slow medium-large sized droplets leaving medium-fine legs

Nose:

Initially slightly flinty and a little waxy, brought Clynelish to mind, some spice, ginger and tangy orange marmalade, gingerbread biscuits, nutty salted almonds and hazelnuts with a dash of walnut, cereal barley, dry and gristy or husks, grassy and drying hay bales, a touch more salt evocative of the sea

Taste:

Rich golden syrup, medium-dark honey, cereal barley, madeira cake or lemon sponge, oranges or clementines, waxy and smooth, less spicy than the nose suggests, drying hay bales or recently harvested barley field in the autumn sunshine, orange and lemon barley sugars, apple juice and a little dried fruit, raisin or sultana, fine chopped mixed nuts (integrated nutty flavour), salt caramel and fudge, a hint of old ash smoke and sea spray and also some tannic leather

Finish:

Medium, spiced and drying with a savoury waxy earthy peat prickle pepped-up with some stem ginger, the flintiness returns like sparkler fireworks or Zippo lighters being struck.

Overall:

Quite a journey this one, much more complex than I expected. Everything is in moderation here and I was surprised by quite a spicy presentation in the mid to late palate that is actually rather enjoyable and moreish. The same is true of both the salt, nut, leather and faintly ashen peat smoke. A shame this expression has been lost, though I am sure the folk at Bell’s will have replicated the nature of this blend in their newer no-age statement replacement. Arthur Bell obviously struck upon something very good all those years ago with this excellent blend, its popularity remains as tribute to this day.