Oban Little Bay


Here is the last entry in my quick Oban roundup. On Wednesday I reviewed the Oban 14, and was just about whelmed by it. On Friday I reviewed the Oban Distillers Edition and was somewhat underwhelmed by it. Will the NAS offering from the distillery be the one that gets me to the over? Anything is possible.

I’m not sure when the Little Bay was launched—2014? 2015?—or what its story is (all NAS whisky these days has a story). I used to think that its name was redundant—like “chai tea”—as Oban means “Little Bay”. But it turns out that Oban actually means “Little Bay of Caves” (see the picture of the label from my review of the DE). I guess this means we can someday expect another NAS named Oban Caves. It’ll be extra dark and maybe it’ll be sold to us as being especially good on the rocks. I don’t mean to give anyone any ideas. 

The current price of the Little Bay, by the way, seems to be somewhat variable. In Minnesota the lowest price I can find is in the mid-$60s. Elsewhere in the country, however, it can be found as low as $40. Which is the more appropriate price for what’s in the bottle? Let’s take a look.

Oban, Little Bay (43%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Toasted oak and toffee and malt. A little bit of cardboard and then expanding vanilla. Some cream and milk chocolate with time but nothing else. Water brings out more of the oak and makes it unbalanced.

Palate: Cardboard, paper, toasted oak. A bit bland; maybe more than a bit. The texture is fine. On the second sip there’s some wet wool and an indistinct sweetness. Does not taste obviously young—i.e there are no feinty or other off-notes that bespeak great youth. I’m struggling to come up with positives beyond that. Let’s see what time and water do. Well, time does nothing; let’s give water a shot. Water does nothing either.

Finish: Medium-long. Finishes with a beany/nutty note (almost more texture than flavour). Gets spicier as it goes. Nothing of interest here either with time or water.

Comments: In terms of profile this is squarely between the 14 yo and the DE. Like the DE, it’s largely character-free. Drinkable enough—somewhat in blend territory, but it’s not priced like one. I’d assume it’s intended to give blend drinkers an entry-point into the malt market, but again it wasn’t/isn’t priced that way. At any rate, I can’t see myself picking up a bottle even at $40. Your mileage may vary on that question of value but I’d suggest trying before buying.

Rating: 80 points.

Well, I am done with Oban for the foreseeable future. I tried the 18 yo a few years ago and my memory is that I thought it was fine, but this uninspiring run of the other three releases in the lineup doesn’t have me very interested to confirm that one way or the other.

4 thoughts on “Oban Little Bay

  1. I remember trying it and thinking that it was basically the 14 Year with some more oak. The other people at the tasting liked it so there is clearly an audience for that style, but it’s not something I would want to spend my own money for.

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  2. Hi there,

    here is a bit of the story.

    Oban has also released an 18 YO and a rare 32 YO. Only 6,000 bottles of the 32 YO were released. It currently retails for about $1,900, although surprisingly it is often a lot cheaper at auction. Limited Editions cask strength 20 YO and 21 YO whiskies have also been released. The Oban Little Bay expression is a non-age-statement expression released in 2014, as a travel retail exclusive, but is now moving into the core range. Little Bay is a blend of whiskies drawn from a combination of Sherry casks, ex-bourbon hogsheads and ex-Bourbon refill casks that have had new oak ends added. The blend is allowed to marry in smaller, American standard barrels of 180-190 liter casks before being bottled.

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-v-micallef/oban-a-highland-whisky-st_b_13922702.html

    The original press release has long since vanished in the depth of the internet.

    And no, you are not done with Oban but to review the rest of the range could be pricey so we do not insist 8-)

    Greetings
    kallaskander

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