Highlands distilleries week began on a strong note with a 10 yo Loch Lomond/Inchmoan. On Wednesday, an 11 yo Clynelish kept things on a positive trajectory. Here now to close out the week is a 12 yo, from Oban in the western highlands. This 12 yo from the 2008 vintage was part of Diageo’s Special Release roster in 2021 (has the 2022 Special Release lineup been announced yet?). The price was reasonable as the Diageo Special Release generally goes. And it’s generally been received well. Despite this bottles are still hanging around a year later, at least in the UK. It was also released in the US but I don’t think I’ve seen a bottle in Minnesota (not that I’m hunting for things as doggedly as I once did). There is some confusion about the casks that went into this. Diageo’s materials say that it’s made from spirit matured in “freshly charred American oak casks”—and this is what it says on websites like the Whisky Exchange. However, the bottle’s actual label apparently lists ex-bourbon and refill casks. Were they all freshly charred? Are the refill casks not ex-bourbon? The only thing I can tell you for sure is that there is both a bird and two wolves on the label. Okay, enough babble: let’s see what this is like.
Oban 12, 2008, Special Release 2021 (56.2%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Comes in with bright and slightly bitter citrus (grapefruit, I guess) mixed with some cracked pepper. On the second sniff there’s some melon, some grass and oak. Saltier and maltier as it sits. With time there’s a fair bit of lime zest as well. A squirt of water pulls out a bit of pastry crust and amplifies the malt.
Palate: Pretty much as indicated by the nose at first but there’s a burst of sweeter fruit as I swallow (berries) and some oaky bite. Nice texture and quite approachable at full strength. The lemon zest pops out earlier with each sip and there’s a simple syrupy sweetness as well. Alas, the oak gets a bit too pronounced for my liking. Let’s see if water fixes things. Yes, it pushes the oak back a fair bit and turns the lemon in the direction of glazed lemon bars.
Finish: Long. The oak comes to the fore here with the berries and some bitter lemon zest in the background. Develops as on the palate with the oak turning more bitter here at the end, stopping just short of astringency. Water is very good for the finish as well as the oak and other bitter notes recede.
Comments: This started out very nicely on the nose and then took a bit of a downward turn on the palate and finish. Water fixed the problems though and if I had. a bottle I expect I’d be reaching for the water a lot (though who knows, maybe the oak/bitter notes ease with air in the bottle). Do I want a bottle though? On the whole, no—though at a much lower price I could be interested.
Rating: 87 points.