The Oban Distillery sits quaintly by the sea in Oban bay with high cliffs behind it upon which an old romanesque ruin stands. It is really quite a unique and picturesque setting for a distillery and well worth a visit if you are in the area. In terms of its reputation as a distillery it seems to me to be somewhat similar in standing as Dalwhinnie. Like Dalwhinnie, Oban basically has had only one globally available expression (the Oban 14 year old), it receives a healthy number of visitors due to tourist traffic in the area, and it’s a Diageo classic malt. While Oban seems to be fairly popular as a single malt, it strikes me as a bit of an enigma in the whisky industry. With basically only one expression available on the market, it seems to have picked up sales but not necessarily a following. Who exactly buys Oban? I’m not sure. Not that it’s not worth buying but it doesn’t seem to inspire the same kind of cult following as other distilleries and yet sales seem good. So who knows. Oh and by the way you can get an Oban 18 year old in the US which is relatively unknown. Will try to review at some later point in time.
Anyway, it was exciting to see a new expression when the Oban Little Bay came out in 2015 (first as travel retail then into standard markets). But the excitement was mixed with hesitation. It was another non-age statement whisky released onto the market as part of the NAS trend. However, that’s a whole other story entirely. What’s interesting about Oban Little Bay is that they used refill casks with new cask ends fitted. It’s nice to see a bit of experimentation and it reminds me a bit of Compass Box and their methods for getting around the whole controversy of the original Spice Tree being aged in casks which had extra staves thrown inside. In fact it almost seems like a bit of whisky rebuttal from Diageo to Compass Box (their relationship is complicated). Well enough of the gossip, let’s get on to the whisky!
Distillery: Oban Distillery
Age: No Age Statement
Cask: Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry and refill casks with new ends
Price: £53.45 at Master of Malt
Honey comb and orange candies. Orange soda. Orchard flowers. Very perfumey like a department store at Christmas time.
Very interesting mix of honey and potpourri. Hint of orange gummy candies and orange swirl ice cream. A bit peppery like rocket. Orange marmalade.
Peppery rocket salad and orange gummy candies. Honey from orange orchards.
Quite different from what I consider a “standard” whisky. The orangey notes really stand out and make it intriguing. It’s more like processed oranges though or like orange marmalade. May be off-putting to some due to this abnormality but I think it’s a nice departure from the standard dram.