Arthur J. A. Bell’s Vat No.1

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

None I can find.

Arthur J.A. Bell (1946-2015) is not to be confused with Arthur Bell (1825-1900) who founded the famous Bell’s blend. But the two names are very much connected in the realms of whisky history. Arthur J.A. Bell (J.A.) was born in Brechin in 1946 and went to Edinburgh University where he was the co-author of “A Complete Edinburgh Pub Guide”, which sold 20,000 copies. In 1973 J.A. set up the company ‘Scottish Direct’ to sell high quality art and crafts. The company relocated to a disused tweed mill in Biggar, South Lanarkshire, and formed ‘Scottish Gourmet’ to sell local produce by mail order.

J.A. was known as the “The Whisky Connoisseur” and it was under this name that his company bottled and sold numerous single malts. They were given their own unique names such as Taranty (Glencadam) and Honest Tam (Balvenie). The full list that I know of can be found here. It wasn’t until 1985 when Guinness made a hostile takeover of Bell’s Whisky in Perth that J.A. came up with the idea of a blended whisky under the name ‘Scottish Gourmet’. He checked with his lawyer that it would be OK to add his signature to the label of the blend. Although his lawyer said it was OK, Guinness took Arthur J.A. Bell to court, only to end up losing. J.A. wrote an article about the story here.

The original ‘Scottish Gourmet’ blend (later named ‘The Real Macoy’) consisted of Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Springbank mixed with a single grain from the Highlands aged for well over 10 years. Although my miniature ‘Vat No.1’ shouldn’t contain any grain I’m hoping it has some or all of the Scottish Gourmet single malts vatted together at a blended cask strength of 47.3%. Here’s hoping!

Articles written by Arthur J.A. Bell, the Whisky Connoisseur, can be located here.

An obituary of Arthur J.A. Bell can be located here.

2 responses to “Arthur J. A. Bell’s Vat No.1

  1. Michael Vawdrey

    I was a regular customer of Whisky Connoisseur starting in the early 1990 s. This originated from a favourable offer on minis in the National Trust magazine at the time. The whiskies including their own bottlings were always robustly priced but the attraction for me personally was that they carried a wide range of minis which represented the ideal way of sampling an extensive variety without descending into total alcohol addiction. I did try some of his personal vattings which tended to a certain house style(I’d be happy to check back on my tasting notes if there is any interest). Always palatable however. From memory I think the business slowed down when he suffered health problems around the end of the 1990 s. I believe a former colleague had known him at University ! – Mike Vawdrey

    • Thanks Mike for your comment and personal experience of the Whisky Connoisseur. From all I’ve heard and read about him he sounded like an interesting character. It’s a shame there aren’t more like him involved in the world of whisky. Perhaps there will be in the future as the industry continues to grow in popularity. All the best, David

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