Age: Distilled in 1997, bottled in 2012
When legendary whisky writer Alfred Barnard visited Oban in 1887, he described the distillery as “a quaint old-fashioned work”. On the face of it, not much has changed, with Oban distillery employing the same traditional production methods. In the meanwhile though, owners Diageo have invested significantly in both hardware and marketing, and Oban has become one of their flagship Classic Malts.
As a town, Oban is known as the Gateway to the Isles, and indeed many a ferry departs from here to the Hebrides. Perhaps it’s unsurprising therefore that Oban’s distillery character holds the middle between a Highland and an Island whisky. Fresh and fruity but with plenty of briny notes and a whiff of smoke, Oban is the quintessential coastal malt. I count Oban amongst my favourite distilleries, but somehow never end up drinking much of their whisky. Perhaps it’s the fact that there aren’t many expressions on offer. Or perhaps it’s the fact that Oban is never truly outstanding, but never lets you down either, like that dependable old friend you really ought to pay a visit more often. This particular expression has received a second maturation in Montilla Fino sherry casks, providing a nutty richness on top of Oban’s sweet, coastal profile.
Colour: Dark amber
Nose: Salty and sweet in equal measure, like a fresh sea breeze carrying a tide of fruity aromas. There’s a zesty touch to this Oban, as scents of blood orange fade into apple crumble and Christmas cake. Lastly there’s a perfume of aniseed, with the faintest trace of tobacco leaves. Rich and complex, this nose bodes well for the rest of this whisky.
Palate: Oaky notes dominate at first, but then the sea comes rushing back in. Brine, hemp rope and a hint of smoke give way to cracked peppercorns. Then this Oban becomes earthier, with flavours of heather, honey and almonds.
Finish: Decently long, with some floral wood smoke and an aftertaste of roasted cocoa nibs.
Verdict: This is a very satisfying dram. The Distillers Edition takes the solid base of Oban 14 year old and gives it some extra flair. There’s quite a lot of complexity on offer here, in Oban’s typically restrained, coastal style. The Montilla Fino cask accentuates Oban’s fruity notes, without ever affecting its maritime appeal. This is a real charmer from Oban distillery!