Unique Blend 1980 Samaroli 40% ABV

samaroli blend 1980

The Unique Blend was bottled in 2015 by Samaroli’s Scottish-based bottling arm, Coilltean, from selected cask no. 18. This particular blend is rumoured to contain a very healthy amount of Speyside and Glen Garioch 1980 vintage single malt, with some North British grain whisky, and matured for over 35 years. Bottle 511 of only 540 produced.

Appearance: Very dark caramel, almost Cola brown. Some thick trails and a decent swirl mark. A few teardrops and a thick viscous film form on the inside of the glass immediately.

Nose: Honey cereal, dark fruits, confectionary sugar and some lovely rich cola concentrated syrup. It’s a deep and luxurious nose, with a good helping of ethanol, given the ABV.
Sugar-dusted orchard fruits, some dusty bookshelves and a soft layer of vanilla add a mellow element.
This blend has a friendly and inviting nose, I could sit with it for ages.

Palate: A semi-oily mouthfeel, it’s a shame the ABV is 40%, I’d love to see how unctuous this would be at a higher strength.
Caramel, vanilla, heaps of black pepper, after a while, and this orchard fruits.
The cereal notes are consistent with the nose, which is nice.
Some sherry maturation-type notes are more evident on the palate. Cherries and a faint sulphur smoke.
A slight blood-orange bitterness emerges after a time too.

Finish: The blood orange, black pepper and faint sulphur linger for a medium amount of time.

Overall: It’s a very nice blend but I can’t help but feel that it should be amazing, given that it’s apparently 35 years old.

A. D. Rattray Vintage Cask Collection Bowmore 1996 42.8% ABV

From the A. D. Rattray Vintage Cask Collection, this bottling was distilled at Islay distillery Bowmore for 26 years in ex-bourbon barrels. NCF and NC, this release is limited to 235 bottles.

“Thanks to the Morrison family, the stories of A. D. Rattray and Bowmore will be forever entwined. This latest chapter in our long history is an enchanting Islay from the mid-90s, whisking you away to the shores of Loch Indaal for a blissfully long summer evening in paradise.”

Appearance: Light gold white wine. A hairline micro-beaded swirl mark and a viscous film that quickly ripples with many medium trails, forming a corrugated pattern around the inside of the glass.

Nose: Lovely light sweet meat smoke, blackberries and cereal. The ABV is light, which allows the aromas to shine through unencumbered.
Some vanilla wafer and honey start to emerge upon the second sniff.
Gentle caramel and maybe even a touch of kiwi or melon.
There are also very light dried leaves and earth providing another layer to the nose.
It’s a lovely balanced and soft nose.

Palate: The ABV is a little too light for my tastes. The blackberries, honey and vanilla wafer are now dusted with black pepper.
A subtle astringency legs in the background.
Green grape, cinnamon and some lemon sherbets now.
I can’t help but be reminded, upon each sip, that the flavours would be so much better if the ABV was just a tad higher, say 46%, they all seem diluted and with a spring water tinge to them.
Some wood and baking spices come into play after a while too.

Finish: Short. Gentle black pepper, honey, vanilla and traces of the berries. The astringent element, although negligible, is the last flavour on the finish.

Overall: This could be utterly sublime if it were slightly more punchy. Although the flavours are nice, there’s no ‘wow’ factor and it feels too ‘safe’. Remember, this is a £700+ bottle of whisky.

SMWS ‘Defies belief!’ Glen Scotia 57.4% ABV

defies belief smws

Aged for 18 years in a Refill ex-bourbon hogshead. This Campbeltown was limited to 202 bottles.

Appearance: Golden syrup. A thinly beaded tide mark quickly forms with many thin to medium trails and sticky droplets. A pleasing viscous film forms.

Nose: A lovely balance between forest notes of damp leaves and bark, asking with berry freshness and overripe orchard fruits.
The ABV is reassuringly obvious on the nose.
Mint-infused sugar, sweet pastries and a subtle mixed confectionary note (fish sweets and fruit salads) emerge next.
As the dram makes the sweet fruits and sugars increase in intensity.
Faint black pepper too.

Palate: A pleasant semi-viscous mouthfeel and a good helping of chest warming from the ABV.
Plenty of red apples, black pepper and toffee greet the palate first, a lovely arrival.
A salinity and a whisper of the funky harbour notes synonymous with this Campbeltown whisky.
I also get traces of sweet distance BBQ smoke and the buttered steak cooking on it, which is quite meaty. Towards the finish, this morphs into a more sulphur-like note.
Some dusty and damp notes reinforced that ‘funk’ element.

Finish: The salt and toffee linger for a decent length of time, that funk is present at the beginning but fades quickly. Not too much spice makes it to the finish.

Overall: Loads going on and a little funk to make it really interesting. I really like the growing sweetness and the salinity running through it. Very nice.

AD Rattray Staoisha 2013 57.4% ABV

ad rattray staoisha 2013

Named after Loch Staoisha on the Isle of Islay, this bottling comes 3 years on from the release of a sister cask in Cask Collection 58, is this heavily peated Bunnahabhain. Distilled at Bunnahabhain in a Bourbon Hogshead, this cask-strength whisky is limited to 300 bottles.

Appearance: Very light, diluted white wine. A lovely oily film coats the inside of the glass immediately upon swirling. Plenty of long teardrops and thick trails seep down the glass. The film becomes sticky and coins to the glass relentlessly.

Nose: Straight away the Bunnahabhain pedigree is evident. The sweet bonfire smoke from the peat is immediately obvious. Streaky bacon, maple syrup and mixed berries waft up from the glass too.
Floor a call strength whisky, the ABV is carried very well. It’s definitely noticeable, but not interfering with the aromas in any way.
A subtle salinity also weaves through the nose, adding a nice balance against the smoke and fruit.

Palate: A semi-viscous mouthfeel. The ABV is more evident on the palate, with an immediate warming of the chest and spices tingling on the tongue, a faint drying too.
Black pepper, cinnamon and a ginger heat are accompanied by that glorious smoke and those fruit notes, pleasingly similar to the nose.
The dram has a very solid balance all the way through, from the first sniff to the last sip, is all there, but nothing dominates too much.
Tangy orange chocolate, like a Jaffa Cake but intensified, appears late on too.

Finish: The spices, smoke and that orange element linger for a medium to a long time. The smoke is the last thing to dissipate.

Overall: Banger. Purchased.

Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch Whiskey 46.5% ABV


This expression is created using barrels specifically chosen by Uncle Nearest’s founders and curated by Victoria Eady Butler, Master Blender (who is also Nathan ‘Nearest’ Green’s great-great-granddaughter).

Appearance: Light gold. A nice thick beaded tide mark. Many lovely thick trails form on top of a viscous film.

Nose: A heady ABV wave greets the nose first. Honey, vanilla and Christmas spices waft from the glass, accompanied by barley sugar, red apple and pear. Oak and subtle black pepper appear after a small amount of time.
There’s a very faint soap aroma, not strong enough to be unpleasant, just ‘there’.

Palate: A fairly decent mouthfeel. Tannin bitterness, but none of the drying initially. A decent helping of black pepper, cinnamon, honey, heaps of berries, and orange sharp sweetness.
It’s a unique palate for an American whiskey, in a good way too. Plenty going on and the sweetness really adds another welcomed dimension.
Towards the end of the dram some drying builds, but it’s light and not offputting.

Finish: The pepper evaporates quickly, leaving the sweetness and cinnamon to linger for a short to medium amount of time.
It’s a lovely finish and leaves you wanting more.

Overall: Very pleasantly surprised. More going on than some other US whiskey that I’ve tried. The orchard fruits on the nose and berry/orange notes on the palate really work with the spices and oak. Lovely.

Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye 40% ABV

Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye

Distilled in Virginia by Catoctin Creek, this Roundstone Rye is made from 100% rye, sourced locally ‘whenever possible’. Then aged in new Minnesota white oak casks before being bottled at 80 proof (also known as 40% ABV). 

Appearance: Foster’s amber. Plenty of teardrops and sporadic thin legs. Quite a thick swirl line and a semi-viscous film.

Nose: A definite ethanol wave, more evident than I was expecting. Heaps of plasticine and plastic notes, rye spice and honey nut cornflakes.
After a while, some traces of fruit appear in the form of red apples and non-descript berries.
Some sweeter brown sugar-dusted pastry aromas emerge later on.

Palate: A buttery arrival, the ABV is far less evident than on the nose.
The plastic notes are consistent with the nose, I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Vanilla, honey, nutmeg, icing sugar and orange zest.
After a time, there is a gentle building of peppery heat.

Finish: Short to medium. Some icing sugar really on, the orange, vanilla and some cinnamon last the longest, but that’s not long.

Overall: Not for me I’m afraid. That plasticine element is very off-putting.

Glen Scotia Campbeltown Malts Festival 2023 54.7% ABV


A lightly peated 11-year-old single malt scotch whisky, finished for 12 months in white port casks. Released to celebrate the Campbeltown Malts Festival 2023.

Appearance: Honey gold. A thin film forms around the glass with plenty of thin to medium trails. The thin swirl mark is chaotic and beaded, with lots of droplets.

Nose: A nice ABV wave. Rich aromas of sugar-covered dark fruits, toffee, honey, cinnamon and red apple skin.
A very distant beach bonfire, hardly noticeable to me.
Harbour air, old salty rope and a subtle rubber boot sole note arrive next.
Some light eucalyptus and pine. The rich toffee note grows a little as time passes, along with the apple, so toffee apple!
A faint funk is a constant undercurrent here. It’s a very nice nose Indeed.

Palate: A pleasing viscous mouthfeel and immediate rich sweet caramel-covered apple pie hit first. Black pepper and cinnamon dusted blackberries and sweet BBQ sauce-doused burnt ends.
A slight drying emerges after a few sips, as does a gentle tingle from the higher ABV.
Smoked orange segments appear after a time.

Finish: Medium to long, with a good chest warming. Spicy and fruity, with a very faint smoke. The orange underpins the other notes.

Overall: Very nice. It’s a lovely balance of flavours with that GS harbour funk.

AD Rattray BenRiach 2012 Bourbon Cask 58.4% ABV

AD Rattray Benriach bourbon cask

Appearance: Very light, similar to diluted white wine. A very thin tide mark, made up of tiny beads, encircles the glass. After some time, the beads slowly morph into small teardrops and the occasional short thin to medium trail. A semi-viscous corrugated film forms on the inside of the glass.

Nose: Rhubarb and custard with a touch of black pepper to start. There are also mixed berries drizzled with honey and a pastry note too. A slight funk is lingering in the background, only apparent when moving away from the glass slightly. Some citrus notes appear after a while, specifically lime, along with non-descript tropical fruit elements.

Palate: A nice bakery sweet note, along with the black pepper and berries. A decent ABV heat supplies evidence of the cask strength. Wholemeal biscuits and bitter chocolate (so chocolate digestive) emerge next. The dram actually becomes quite savoury as it matures. There’s some astringency running through the palate, it’s not unpleasant, but I can’t help but feel it isn’t adding anything.

Finish: Black pepper, red berries and honey linger for a medium amount of time. The astringency is still there too but fades quickly.

Overall: I like it, but there are elements I could do without. I have very high expectations from these guys so I tend to be a little harsh when I come across elements I don’t like. Anyone else would probably love this!

AD Rattray Glenglassaugh 2014 51.8% ABV

AD Rattray Glenglassaugh 2014

This highland whisky was distilled in 2014 and matured in both a Bourbon Hogshead and then a 3-year seasoned 1st Fill Oloroso Sherry Hogshead sourced directly from Spain. Limited to 301 bottles, NCF and NC.

Appearance: Copper/burnt sugar. A thin swirl line with an immediate abundance of medium to thick long trails. A decent viscosity in the film that clings to the glass.

Nose: Confectionary sugar, digestive biscuits and hedgerow fruits emerge first. The ABV is evident but not overwhelming, which is something that AD Rattray does very well, even with the really high alcohol bottles. There are distant orchard fruits, in the form of red apple and pear, along with a mellow custard vanilla and honey. As the dram develops it becomes like a fruit pie in a glass, very pleasant nose indeed.

Palate: Not a hugely oily mouthfeel, but a shade more viscous than something I would describe as ‘thin’. The ABV is more evident on the palate. A tingling of white pepper accompanies the far more obvious lighter fruit notes. Apple again, blackberries and raspberries. The honey and vanilla notes are consistent with the nose. The almost rye spice heat builds quickly on the chest, which offers a nice dimension to accompany the fruits. A bitter blood orange note appears after a time, not my favourite flavour.

Finish: The bitter note, along with the remnants of the spice and some lighter fruits last for a medium amount of time. The last note to fade is the fruit and there is a very subtle dying.

Overall: It’s ok, not my favourite bottling by a long way but I’d definitely not say no to a dram, if offered.

A.D.Rattray Arran 2017 1st Fill Bourbon Octave 56.2% ABV

Arran 2017 1st Fill Bourbon Octave

“We hand-delivered this 1st fill bourbon octave to James MacTaggart at the distillery in Lochranza in the summer of 2017. In turn, James very kindly filled it with the wonderful, citrussy Arran spirit. Just five and a half years later the results are spectacular. Extremely limited outturn. “

Appearance: Summer honey/sunset yellow. A nice and oozy liquid clings to the glass with ease. A thick beaded swirl mark encircles the glass, with multiple teardrops, as well as long thick trails.

Nose: Immediately noticeable high ABV, but not at the detriment of the dram. Lots of honey, vanilla, wood spice and salted pistachios.
Dusty bookshelf and damp basement funk, and lots of it.
Some marzipan makes an appearance after some time, along with a touch of nutmeg.

Palate: A lovely spot smooth mouthfeel with equally silky buttery caramel, subtle black pepper, vanilla and some confectionary sugar.
Blackberries, milk chocolate and honey add another beautiful layer.

Finish: The confectionary sugar, black pepper tingle and vanilla last for a medium amount of time. There’s a slight lemon zest undercurrent too.

Overall: Is an absolute banger and I immediately went to grab a bottle as not many were in the outrun. I stopped when I saw it was £100 though. I love A.D.Rattray but this particular 5-year-old is too rich for my blood I’m afraid.