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Catto’s Rare Old Scottish Blended

WC Shelf talkerReview: Catto’s Rare Old Scottish Blended Scotch Whisky  81.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published February 15, 2016

James Catto launched his Rare Old Scottish Highland Whisky in 1861. Today the brand is within the portfolio of Inver House Distillers.

According to the information provided to me and what I could glean from the James Catto’s Blended Scotch Whisky website, Catto’s Rare Old Scottish blended scotch whisky is Catto’s flagship whisky brand. It is produced from a blend of Inver House Distilleries’ (Old Pulteney, anCnoc, and Balblair)  Highland and Speyside unpeated Single Malts, and from Lowland grain whisky.

The whisky was presented to me as a low-cost ‘bar rail’ brand, although the Ontario Agent for the brand (Woodman Wines and Spirits) was also quick to point out that Jim Murray had given the whisky an astonishing score of 92 points in his 2015 ‘Whisky Bible‘ publication. The blend is reputed to have a very high malt content which might be part of the reason it appealed to Jim so much.

Catto'sIn the Bottle 4.5/5

Catto’s has given their Rare Old Scottish Blended an updated bottle which is shown to the right. 1861, is of course the year James Catto began to blend whisky and highlighting the year the whisky brand was founded on the label is a nice touch. I like the modern label which tapers to the right and the angled ribbing on the bottle that follows the angle of the label. The only part of the bottle presentation which is consistent with a ‘bar rail’ brand is the ‘pressed on’ metallic cap.

This is an inexpensive whisky, so I am not harsh in my judgement.

In the Glass 8/10

When I pour the Cattos’s into my glass I see the whisky has a pale golden hue darker than straw but not quite what I would call amber. When I tilt my glass and give it a slow twirl, the whisky leaves a thin sheen on the inside of that glass the crest of which drops skinny legs which run back down into the whisky.

The initial nose rising into the breezes above the glass has a firm aroma of malt and honey which is accented by a hint of peat (or perhaps sherry smoke), some fine grain spices, and a light herbaceous note reminiscent of heather and mint. Bits of orange peel add another dimension of spice, and some green grapes and cherry-like impressions hint that perhaps a few sherry barrels may have been utilized in the aging of at least some of the whisky.

As I let the glass sit I notice fruity aromas of canned pears and apricots, as well as building oak and grain spices which remind me of lemon zest and dry tobacco. When the glass is finished there is a dusty dry grassiness remaining in the bottom of the glass. The whisky appears to be moderately complex; however it also has a touch of the penetrating sweetness I associate with a young grain whisky.

In the Mouth 49.5/60

The delivery brings sweet malt flavours forward with honey and butterscotch. The whisky is quite fruity with citrus like lemon and orange flavours, and darker plum and raisin sitting deeper down. There is a little dollop of sherry smoke which on some days almost tastes of peat. Some peppery grain spice gives the whisky a bit of a ‘penetrating’ quality however balanced against this is a lightly bitter counter-punch which arrives near the end.

Sipped neat without ice the whisky is almost of sipping quality. However the penetrating grain spice and the lightly intense sweetness become cloying quickly. The whisky is much better over ice as this dampens the sweetness and reveals a few milk chocolate flavours.

In the Throat 11.5/15

The exit is quite short with those lightly bitter flavours revealed. This is followed by a heightened sweetness of honey and butterscotch.

The Afterburn 8/10

As far as Scottish blends go this Catto’s Rare Old Scottish Blended Scotch Whisky is quite good. I am not nearly so enthusiastic as Jim Murray was, but I understand where he is coming from when he states, Currently one of my regular blends to drink at home.” That is because this is a comfortable whisky.

With ice, it is pleasing so you can safely serve it to those who must drink “on the rocks”, and it is also quite versatile for mixing taking to ginger-ale in particular as if this whisky and soda were long time pals (see recipe below).

And that is pretty much what my score of 81.5/100 represents.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

Catto'sThe Presbyterian Cocktail

2 oz Catto’s Rare Old Scottish Blended Scotch Whisky
1 1/2 oz Ginger Ale
1 1/2 oz Club Soda

Add Ice to a rocks glass
Pour Scotch Whisky over the ice
Add Ginger Ale and Club Soda and stir

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)



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