Oban is a Highland malt well known for its gentle, dry, honey-and-fruit character. See my review of the 14-year standard bottling here. Diageo, owners of the tiny distillery, have just announced that they now have enough stock of the older 18 year, which was previously only released as a limited-edition bottling, to make Oban 18 a permanent part of the lineup. As explained by Diageo Senior Master of Whisky Steve Beal at last week’s K&L Whisky Tasting in Redwood City, CA, the Oban distillery is unable to expand its still-room due to the city which has grown up around it. Diageo must make do with the production capacity of only two stills, 6 days a week. They set aside 300 barrels each year for the Distiller’s Edition (review here), and now 300 barrels a year for the new 18 year-old. K&L in Redwood City currently has this one for the incredible price of $99.
Nose: Light honey, lemon peel, candied orange peel, some bright golden apple notes. Light, bright, and sweet aroma.
Palate: Smooth but quite dry. Crisp. Caramel apple, orange blossom honey, warm notes of hard apple cider. Very elegant. The dryness does not come off rough, like a young blend, but instead dries the mouth and tingles the palate.
Finish: All honey. Raw, local, organic honey. Long and warming.
Overall: This is easily as smooth and refined as the Macallan 18, but the dryness and gentle, straightforward flavors make it unchallenging. If you have a penchant for easy-drinking whiskies and a spare $100 to spend (which is a steal), this one is calling out to you. If you’re curious about Oban’s style, the 14 is an exemplar of West Highland malt. Try that first.