Posts Tagged ‘bells special reserve review


Project Whisk(e)y: Bell’s Special Reserve

BellsI know what you’re thinking. Bell’s. Old white men. Fishing. Their noses so red and swollen if you squeezed them whisky would dribble out.

Bell’s is not hip. Bell’s is not cool. If a guy arrives at a house party with a bottle of Bell’s, you immediately assume he stole it from his dad’s liquor cabinet.

Such is the stigma that haunts this perfectly good blended scotch whisky because it is marketed directly at old men who are so loyal to the brand that they buy it by the case every two months at Makro and have done so for the last 30 years.

I drank my fair share of it back in varsity because the only other whisky that competed at the same price point was J&B, which is my mom’s weapon of choice.



So when it came down to drinking mom’s wizzo or dad’s wizzo, I manned up and took the high road, silently patting myself on the back because I was drinking whisky and people who drink whisky are badasses.

Strangely enough, over time I’ve reached a point where I almost can’t stand Bell’s Extra Special Old Scotch Whisky. Too many nights subjecting that spirit to my own specialised distilling process which involved pouring it in vast quantities into my stomach and then inviting my friends tequila and jagermeister to join the party.

BUT, if it’s Bell’s Special Reserve we’re talking about then THAT boys and girls, is a completely different story.

Normal Bell’s is a blend of something like 40 different grain and malt whiskies. I went into some detail about what the difference between these two types of whisky are in my previous post so hit this link if you want the down lizzo.

At the heart of the Bell’s blend is a single malt called Blair Athol. This is the DNA of Bell’s. Most blended whiskies have a lead whisky that determines the broad taste profile of the blend and of other blended whiskies belonging to the same brand.



Blair Athol is what gives normal Bell’s its spicy, nutty flavour and you’re going to find similar flavours in Bell’s Special Reserve, but you’re going to find a boatload of other flavours too because unknown to pretty much everyone, Bell’s Special Reserve is one of the whisky world’s hidden gems.

What makes Bell’s Special Reserve so special is the fact that though it’s a blended whisky, it contains absolutely no grain whisky whatsofuckingever.

Roughly 10 whiskies go into Bell’s Special Reserve and every single one of those is a different malt whisky.

Now, as any master blender will tell you, it’s very difficult to blend only malt whiskies and come out with a product that is palatable. Malt whisky is generally full of flavour, character and complexity – too much of a good thing and you risk tipping that vital balance between spiciness, sweetness, maltiness and deliciousness (yes, that is a legitimate flavour) that defines a good whisky.



Bell’s Special Reserve gets this balance so right it’s scary. The only other whisky that I think compares is Johnny Walker Green Label (also a blended malt whisky) but if you compare the two price-wise, you’ll soon see why Bell’s SR is one of my favourite go-to whiskies.

On the nose you’re going to find some sweet honey and chocolaty notes with a hint of that time-honoured Bell’s nuttiness (think ground up almonds) coming from the Blair Athol.

But pour that delicious golden nectar past your lips and those rich honey notes are going to come alive followed by some deeper, dark chocolaty notes and a subtle spiciness that is drawn out to a warm, peppery finish that has me grinning from ear to ear every time I taste it.

A bottle of whisky this good should cost R400, fact. Johnnie Walker Green Label sells for R569.95 a bottle at Makro. Care to guess how much Bell’s SR goes for?

Try R229.95 (also at Makro). For that goddamn price you could practically use the stuff as cologne if you wanted to.



Take my advice on this one, go get a bottle this weekend, pour a dram into a tumbler with a block of ice and sip on that bad boy at a leisurely pace.

Hell, you could even practise your casting while you’re at it if you really want to get into character, but anyway you slice this one, you can not beat this whisky for value for money.

End. Van. Storie.

Tune in next week folks as I continue my search for awesome blended whiskies that won’t break the bank.