I say I'm thirsty, not dirty.”
– Joe E. Lewis
Oban, one of my most cherished distilleries in Scotland, is located in the west-coast highland town of Oban (pronounced O-bin). It is the largest town on the west coast and it is an easy stop for those driving up to the northern Isle of Skye – making it the second most visited distillery for Diageo, with over 32,000 visitors a year. Interestingly, the city of Oban was never a city before the distillery was opened in the late 1700’s. Only once the distillery was built, did a town begin to form. The distillery meant jobs and its location on the coast meant a shipyard. From there it continued to grow and flourish as it built itself up around the distillery. Thus Oban is quite unique in that it cannot grow from its present size of four washbacks and one pair of stills. There just isn’t any room. Though, even for the small size of the distillery it would seem rather odd that at full capacity it would be producing upwards of about 700,000 litres a year. The pair of stills could allow for more but there is a bottleneck in the washbacks. Oban's unique flavor profile is dependent on a very long fermentation period (about 4 1/2 days), which translates to about six mashes a week. Inadvertently this means that there simply isn't a lot to go around. The 14 year old, reviewed below, is the only standard bottling, with the hard to find distillers reserve, limited editions, and an 18 year old released exclusively for the US market.
Oban 14 Year Old Scotch Whisky Review:
Price: Around $74.00 for a 750ml bottle. Expensive no doubt, the size and availability of the spirit justifies the price.
Packaging/Labeling: Fairly traditional bottle; clean, neat, and classy with a nice corkstop.
Alcoholic Content: 43% abv, 86 proof.
Nose: Strong spearmint with a smoky mineral arrival. Peppermint and fresh cut wood with honey. Light notes of dark and tart fruit.
Palate: Bittersweet and malty on arrival. Smooth dark oak and light smoke. Nutty ginger, citrus, and salt on the end which develops into an almost bitter spice and drying finish. To note I find the bitterness, though a bit off putting to some, quite enjoyable. Fresh cut leather lingers on.
Conclusion: Ahh, I just love this one. The bittersweet and salty is a wonderful mouth feel. Just enough peat for those who need it, and a comfortable amount for those who don’t. For $74.00 I find this well worth the money. Everything I could want in maritime malt. I do have to say that the whole time I'm sipping on this my mind is wondering what 4 more years (as in the 18 year old) could do for this – really enjoyable. If you're having seafood tonight, Oban would be a great accompaniment. Highly recommended.