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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
Let’s continue with highlands week but swing around from Ardmore in the eastern highlands, all the way to Oban in the west.
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. Continue reading →
You think watching the last season of Game of Thrones was hard? You should have tried watching the last season of Game of Thrones *and* reviewing all eight of Diageo’s Game of Thrones malts. Sure, only a couple have been completely dull but only a couple so far have been better than decent (the Lagavulin and the Clynelish). Nor have very many of the pairings made much sense: House Lannister (built on gold mines) got the smoky Lagavulin while the dragon-riding Targaryens got the Cardhu Gold. The Night’s Watch being assigned Oban makes very little sense as well. The Night’s Watch is at the very north of the known world of Westeros; shouldn’t they have been matched with one of the northernmost distilleries? If you ask me, House Stark should have been given Glen Ord or Teaninich instead of Dalwhinnie (which should have gone to House Tyrell), and the Night’s Watch should have got Clynelish. I’m upset about this because none of it matters. On to the whisky. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
After Wednesday’s review of the 2017 release of the Oban 14 (which I was just about whelmed by) here is my review of the 2017 release of the Oban Distillers Edition. As these—unlike the regular 14 yo—carry vintage statements, I am able to tell you that it was distilled in 2003. I have a bit of a spotty history with Diageo’s various Distillers Edition releases, which are basically the regular entry-level age-stated malt + a couple of months in various wine casks. Only the Lagavulin DE, which “finishes” the phenolic 16 yo in sweet PX casks, has consistently done it for me (here and here). I’ve previously also reviewed the 2011 release of the Talisker DE—I didn’t care for that one very much. In general, most of the Distillers Edition releases I’ve tried have seemed to drown the idiosyncratic qualities of the base malt in whatever wine cask the finish has been done in. In this case, the profile of the Oban 14 should theoretically be a good fit with the Montilla fino cask finish. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case. Continue reading →
I began the month and week with a review of a stunt whisky: Ardbeg Grooves, the 2018 edition of Ardbeg’s annual special release. Today I have a review of an altogether more classic malt—one that is always available and has been available for a long time: the Oban 14. It was recently brought to my attention that I have not yet reviewed a single Oban. This is not entirely my fault as there are very few Obans one could review. Until recently, this 14 yo and a sherry-finished Distillers’ Edition were the only Obans that were easily found (no indie releases that I can think of)—there’s a 18 yo as well, but it’s a more limited release (and in a rare twist, I believe it’s a US exclusive). A couple of years ago an inevitable NAS offering, “Little Bay”, joined the regular line-up; but unlike with Talisker, Diageo has not yet made that line-up mushroom further. If you’re in Oban you can go to the distillery and try your luck with the distillery exclusive, but here in the US we only have three or four Obans to choose from. To make up for my neglect of the distillery, I’m going to review most of these in succession. Today, the 14 yo; on Friday, the Distillers’ Edition; and on Monday, “Little Bay”. In one fell swoop I will go from having reviewed no Obans to having reviewed almost all available Obans. Continue reading →