Origin: Highlands (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing barrels: Ex-Bourbon
Added coloring: Yes
Average price: € 54.00
Official website: www.obanwhisky.com
I fill a gap in the blog, which was missing one of the cornerstones of Diageo’s so-called Classic Malt, a whisky loved by many but of which there are not many expressions: Oban.
Like so many other distilleries, the incipit when talking about it is “among the oldest in Scotland”, but in this case it is a deserved title: founded in 1794 in what was just a fishing village and which, thanks to the distillery’s activity, later became the town of the same name.
One of the smallest distilleries in the country, with just two stills producing just under 900,000 litres a year and never actually growing in size, it was founded on the initiative of brothers John and Hugh Stevenson who owned it for a long time, until 1866, when it was taken over first by Peter Curnstie and then by Walter Higgin in 1883.
Rebuilt by the last owner to meet the increased demand for the distillate, it was acquired a few years later by Alexander Edward, already the owner of Aultmore, and experienced moments of great difficulty in the 1920s due to the crisis of one of the blenders, Pattinson’s of Leith, which bought large batches, leading to its sale in 1923 to Dewar’s and then to the Distillers Company (later Diageo).
A few years of closure, between 1931 and 1937 and again from 1969 to 1972, it finally became part of Classic Malt in 1988, with most of its production ending up in the blends of the parent company.
There are few basic expressions of whisky, next to this 14 year old there is only the NAS Little Bay (the Gaelic translation of Oban), an 18 year old and the annual Distillers Edition, plus a few other special editions.
At the moment there are seven permanent employees working on the premises, to show the small size of their production.
Interestingly, the founders lived in a house right next to the distillery, with a door in their living room that looked directly onto the plant, so they could keep an eye on the progress of the work.
The nose is very light and herbaceous, fresh, with hints of orange and honey, along with a good dose of seaweed and coastal aromas. Yellow peach, pineapple, prunes, splash of lemon. There is also a puff of smoke in the background, just hinted at, rising from the peat that is more moist than toasty. Very interesting and distinctive profile.
The palate suffers from a certain alcoholic exuberance, pushing a slight metallic hint that tends to remain throughout the drink. The maritime profile ends up a bit in the background, with the sweet veins of malt, honey and vanilla, sour citrus and dry wood overlapping and sometimes clashing with each other, throwing hazelnuts and leather into the mix. Still a shy wisp of smoke appears every now and then, uncertain what to do.
The finish is medium-long, metallic and dry, with hazelnuts, wood and a touch of the sea.
Unbalanced and at times grumpy, on the palate it loses all the lightness and elegance of the nose in an ensemble that never seems to get right.
It’s a whisky appreciated by many, and for this very reason I wanted to try it on different occasions (and in different contexts), but the sensations always remain the same, of a distillate “I would like to but I can’t”.
Other bottlings in the blog:
Oban Bay Reserve Game of Thrones – The Night’s Watch
The Whiskey Wash