Friday, August 26, 2016

Whisky Review: Oban 14 Year

Oban is known for its relative scarcity as much as it is for its quality. One of the very few distilleries sited within a town rather than in the countryside, it has no room to expand production. This means that its output is used entirely for single malts, with nothing going to either blends or independent bottlers.

I had planned to visit Oban during my trip to Scotland a few years ago, but revised my plans to visit London instead. Biking 50 plus miles in the rain from Kennecraig was not a particularly appealing idea, even if it meant missing out on Tobermory as well. So I'll just have to see what their whisky is like at home.

This whisky is bottled at 43%, almost certainly with coloring and chill filtration.

Oban 14 Year

Nose: gobs of caramel, dry malt, a touch of smoked herbs, dried fruit, a bit of sherry, oily nuts, sea air. After adding a few drops of water the sherry notes become stronger and push out most of the subtlety.

Taste: caramel and malt sweetness with a touch of sherry in the background throughout, dissolving into dry malt near the back. After dilution it becomes flatter and more malt-driven, with the sherry diminishing and the smoke becoming strong.

Finish: clean fresh malt, gentle oak, sherry residue, barrel char, earthy, a touch of peat, salt

Oban just makes me sad. As with many Diageo whiskies, I can get hints of good spirit hidden behind their engineered blandness, but unlike those others there is almost no way to try Oban without the varnish through IB single casks. Like Lagavulin, all of the distillery's output is already spoken for by Diageo's own needs. And Oban is one of the very few Scottish distillery's to be located inside a town, which means that it has no room for expansion.

None of this is to say that what we can get from Oban is bad - I wouldn't turn down a free pour at a bar - but it's not something that I would spend my own money on again. Even staying within the Diageo fold, I'm not sure Oban has a lot to offer that can't be found in Clynelish or Cragganmore for less money. C'est la vie.

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