Bells whisky decanters are truly awful things to gaze upon in my opinion, but they are popular in some circles. Despite fetching ridiculous prices from some collectors, they can often be picked up for under £10. What I’m paying for is the contents within; high quality Bells blends from decades ago.
A sub-market for empty decanters does exist, so your gold leaf monstrosity may find a welcoming home outside of a rubbish bin. Meaning that potentially you can enjoy the contents and sell the empty on; thereby making a profit. I’m sure the empties can be utilised for other means by inventive folk; I haven’t decided what exactly to do with the decanter yet.
This tasting avenue didn’t really occur to me until a friend tricked me with the contents of a Bells decanter from the 1980’s. Perhaps sitting in a decanter for numerous years influences the blend somewhat as the end result was a huge surprise. Hence this purchase and another that I’ll be reviewing later in the year.
First up though a warning as the seals on these decanters can sometimes vary greatly. This particular example (bottled for the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday in 1990) unfortunately had a dried out cork. The whisky within was intact and with bottles you can normally spot when there is a seal issue or for decanters just shake the sealed ceramic and listen; does it sound more empty than it should? In this case there were no warning signs.
The plastic seal was in place so its just one of those things and perhaps a combination of materials, design and storage conditions. If the stopper was porcelain or plastic we’d be laughing. Still, its nothing a corkscrew and then arming yourself with a filter and new bottle/decanter cannot overcome with a little patience. Actually decanting it into a plain bottle makes it easier to pour, store and gaze upon.
Once that job it done you can sit back enjoy your bargain purchase and I’d suggest having a current version of Bells to hand so you can compare – the differences can be quite pronounced. First up the bottle details and then my tasting notes.
Distillery: Bells is a blend so a combination of Blair Atholl, Inchgower, Dufftown and given when this was bottled quite possibly Pittyvaich which is now closed.
Bottled: for August 1990 so sometime that year surely
Price: I picked this up for around £8 at auction.
Bell’s Queen Mother 90th birthday decanter review
On the nose: a really shy nose so just a touch of water required to open it up a little. This brings forth banana and marzipan with a little background of oak. Melted margarine represents the oily note before a blip of orange and butterscotch. Generally an aroma that leans towards sweetness and being inoffensive.
In the mouth: surprisingly very little initially but with some coxing lemons arrive and a little oak followed by black pepper and toffee.
This is a very easy drinking Bells blend from the early 90’s that is modest and inoffensive. Passable on its own, I’d use this more as a mixer. As for what I’m going to do with the 22 carat porcelain decanter, maybe I’ll head down cash converters?