For the first full week of December let’s do a week of highland malts and a week of Diageo distillery hand-fills all at once. All three of this week’s malts were filled by hand at the distilleries in late October. Again, not by me but by the person I got these bottle splits from. Let’s begin with the youngest of the three, an 11 yo Oban.
When I visited Oban briefly in the summer of 2017, they had a NAS distillery exclusive in the shop, though not a hand-fill. You weren’t allowed a taste, only a sniff of a pour that had been sitting out for god knows how long. I duly sniffed it and was not impressed and passed on. Indeed, I was not impressed by the other exclusives I encountered at most Diageo distilleries on that trip. But it appears that these days Diageo is making more of an effort. All three of this week’s casks have age statements and are at cask strength. They also have cask types specified. This Oban is from a refill bourbon cask. Well, I rather liked the 2021 Special Release Oban which was about this age and also from bourbon casks—albeit a mix of first and refill casks. If this is at least as good, I’ll be happy.
Oban 11, Distillery Hand-Fill, October 2022 (53.8%; refill bourbon; from a bottle split)
Nose: Toasted oak, lemon, a bit of sweet malt. As it sits there’s some sweeter fruit (apple, a bit of cherry) and the malt expands; some vanilla too now. With time it’s all about the sweet, musky fruit. A few drops of water push the oak back even further and bring out some cereals and candied lemon peel.
Palate: Comes in exactly as indicated by the nose. A bit hotter than the abv would indicate; lovely oily texture. As it sits the lemon expands and it gets sweeter here as well. With more time the oak eases and the fruit gets muskier with tart-sweet apple and a touch of pineapple joining the citrus. Okay, let see what water does for it. It actually brings back some prickly, peppery oak and pairs it quite well with the lemon and pineapple.
Finish: Long. The oak and the lemon duel with the oak coming out on top. Some pepper pops out after a bit. Develops as on the palate with time and water.
Comments: A bit more oak presence than I would have expected from refill bourbon. It does ease with time but it makes me wonder if the cask was re-charred (or was it a barrel?). Anyway, this came on nicely with time and water. It is a more generic bourbon cask whisky of its type than recognizably Oban (see my thoughts from seven years ago about “distillery character“) but it’s very good.
Rating: 87 points.