With this review I believe Oban joins the very small list of distilleries all members of whose core lineups I have reviewed. Unless things have changed since I last looked, the 14 yo, the Distiller’s Edition and the NAS Little Bay are the only others in that core Oban lineup (I’m not counting “distillery only” bottlings or those that have shown up in Diageo’s annual special releases). The 18 yo was first released in 2008 as a special release but has since become a fixture. It’s somewhat unusual in that it is an exclusive for the US market where it goes from $100-$130. At least it used to be a US exclusive—I assume it still is given how few entries there are for it in the EU-centric Whiskybase listings. I believe it’s matured in all first-fill American ex-bourbon casks. As to whether it is made with malt peated to a higher degree than the 14 yo, I don’t know. The 14 yo is barely peated—too only about 2 ppm—but I picked up notes of smoke from my bottle anyway. I’m curious to see where this 18 yo bottled in 2020 (as per the bottle code) will fall on that front. The last time I had the Oban 18 was about a decade ago and I have no memory or notes of it.
Oban 18, 2020 Release (43%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Polished oak and spice make the first impression with some wood smoke behind. Quite a bit of malt and some herbal notes on the second sniff. As it sits the malt gets richer (and more roasted) and there’s a papery quality as well (think a freshly opened stack of Manila envelopes) along with some orange. Creamier with more time and air and the orange expands as well. With water the cream and the malt and the orange meld really well.
Palate: Comes in spicy here too but it’s more acidic from the get-go than on the nose. Turns sweeter as I swallow (oranges). Nice texture and a good drinking strength. Maltier here too with each sip and the citrus becomes more pronounced (orange peel rather than juice now). Water brings out more citrus here and sharpens the whole.
Finish: Medium-long. Some notes of milky cocoa join the oak spice as it fades. Salty at the very end. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Well, I’m definitely picking up smoke here. Considering they get their malt from Diageo’s central facility I’m assuming there’s some higher ppm peated malt in the mix for the 18 yo. Anyway, I rather like this mix of citrus and mild smoke and roasted malt. Not a whisky that sets off any fireworks but a very pleasant companion for a winter evening. Is it worth the asking price? Now that I’m less sure of. But good luck finding an OB 18 yo whisky for less these days.
Rating: 86 points.