Oban (14 year)

My Scotch journey began with three drams. A Laphroaig 10, an Aberlour A’Bunadh, and Oban 14. In that order. It’s no wonder that, at the time, my impression of the Oban was that it was light and largely flavorless. Anyone assailing his or her taste buds with the peat attack of Laphroaig 10, and following that up with a cask-strength Sherry monster, cannot be relied upon to taste anything, let alone a floral, nuanced highlander like Oban. To illustrate something of the journey I’ve taken in these short few months (I’ve been drinking single malts for 8 months, as of the date of this blog post), here are my tasting notes 8 months ago, and my tasting notes today:

Nose has honey, oily green fresh herbs. Super light smoke with seaweed and the lightest touch of smoke.
Palate has honey, strawberry jam,rosemary, baked fruit pies.
Finish is long. Clover honey, port wine?

Nose: Orange peel (Gran Marnier?) and coriander. Heather blossoms, rose water, peach sherbet. Deeply honeyed, floral, and rich. White fruits, even a touch of white port. Perhaps a touch of peat, in a pithy, green herbal note. A dash of water brings out a little green apple and mown grass, and heightens the very small amount of peat (in a mossy/earthy way, not smokey).

Palate: Viscous and honeyed. Full bodied if not creamy. Sweet baked goods (sugar cookies), raw local honey, red raspberries. Later, there is some jammy red fruits like pie filling. Very smooth, with nary a tongue burn. Water does this a dis-service, thinning the body with only a few drops, and stinging the tongue with alcohol.

Finish: A touch of oak, drying in the back of the throat. Medium-long but with nice floral passes and a lot more of that raw, herby honey.

Overall: A satisfying dessert dram. Honeyed and full-bodied, it reminds me a lot of white port, but with more bite. It’s hard to imagine anyone not loving Oban 14. Leave off the water on this one, though.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

Located in the West Highlands, actually situated on the western seacoast of Scotland, Oban sits across the Firth of Lorn from the Isle of Mull. One of Diageo’s “Classic Malts”, its water comes from Loch Gleann a Bhearraidh, the town reservoir. This whole area is made up of old volcanic lava flow rock. Steel mash tun, larch washbacks, and only two small “lamp glass”-shaped stills with traditional wooden worm tubs.
Oban (14 year)
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $55-$65
Acquired: (Bottle): K&L Wines in Redwood City, CA. http://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sku=620023

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    • Hi J,
      Oban is definitely honeyed and malty (The Glenrothes, a Speysider, is also heavy on honey & butterscotch flavors). Highland Park 12 is a little more acidic and citrusy, with mild peat. Both are quite smooth. I think the HP 12 is cheaper, though.

  • too many bad reviews on Glenrothes select. HP taste diagram has high on citrus. Oh, i cant even eat a nut. is Hp too drying for me like old pulteney.

    Im also considering big peat, glen moray? , walker green, ?. anything with crumbling biscuit like malt notes. Maybe HP 12 is way to go. I did like Glendronach lots i cant buy locally. the honey attacking.

    • @J,
      I haven’t tried Glenrothes Select, but the Vintage releases are generally well-received, although they’re pricey. HP does have a significant citrus note (lemony, not orange like The Dalmore), but because of its partial sherry finishing, is sweeter than most peated drams. For true sweetness, you generally want to look for sherry finishes like The Macallan, or unpeated Highlanders like Oban and The Dalmore, or Speysiders like Glenrothes.

      I’ve never had Glen Moray or JW Green, although Johnnie Walker in general is known for easy-drinking and middle-of-the-road balanced flavor. (A little smoke, a little malt, a little fruit, etc).

  • some HP12 comments it has NUTTY. My Palate is too sluggish for this. Old Pulteney- also floor dry malting was one i could not drink. If it has a salt, savory, honey think going with smoke it sounds awesome.
    Im corrently thinking Peat Monster,, HP12, Walker Green, more expansive Oban, then a’bunadh and 3d 3rd.

    I have like glendronach, bruichladdie peat, ardbrg 10 Teachers (too chemical and burning for me know and toxic)

    disliked Laphroig 10 40%. that sweetness? Pulteney, glenlivit 12, 15 too much spiky oak.

    • @J,
      It’s good that you’re exploring and discovering what you like and dislike about each whisky. Too many people these days will just pick one blend or malt and refuse to expand their horizons with different tastes. Continue trying new stuff (especially if you have a bar that stocks a good selection), and keep some good notes about what you liked & disliked about each. That way you’ll be able to look back and remind yourself about each one. Also, remember that taste change and you may discover down the road that whiskies you disliked at first may grow on you later. At my first tasting of five malts, I wrote down negative comments about 4 of them. I’ve since gone back and re-tried them, and discovered that I like all but one of them now.

  • Oban is good clean fun. Tasty but the price has gone up here in Las Vegas. Due to the price point (to me) here I have shied away from this tasty whisky. Loved the review and agree it is a must try!

    • Maybe it’s just me, but I’m getting some smokey/peat aromas in this Oban 14. I have had Blair Athol 12 (nicely rounded, unforgettable salty caramel/butterscotch nose), Macallan 12 (the sherry and tropical banana aftertastes are unforgettable… currently my favorite), Speyside 18yr from Kirkland (made me realize my love for sherry-aromas in whiskey), Johnny Walker Green (blegh), Black (alright), Blue (as my teetotaler cousin suggested: like a smooth leather boot – but now we’re gettin somewhere!). As a scotch novice, I am definitely enjoying this Oban though, especially after reading your opinions on how you would taste whiskeys. I am trying to detect the floral aftertastes, but I can definitely agree on the oak as well as a bit of herbed honey! very smooth overall, quite easy to drink too much, heh. Next on my list would have to be Aberlour A’Bunadh.

  • Elegant heather honey, citrus, sea tang, spice, background smoky peat, all
    in fine balance. A sipping dram even for those who “do not like Scotch”, who would faint at even a whiff of Laphroaig. Fine, smooth piece of whisky!

  • I don’t know if this product has changed or not but I was just given a bottle of this truly unpleasant scotch. Easily the most unpalatable scotch I have tried. We sampled a Bowmore 15 after which was as sublimely delicious as this was nasty. I was truly disappointed in this dram and would strongly recommend trying before you buy if you are considering this scotch.

    • That’s odd, Kim, I haven’t had that experience with Oban. Perhaps you got a bad bottle (or bad batch). Some quality liquor stores will let you return opened bottles if they disappoint. (Some). You might try that. Anyone else had a bad Oban 14 before?

      • Just returned from a trip where I visited the Oban distillery and agree about the Oban 14. I was surprised how bland and mildly “off” it tasted given all the great reviews–not unpalatable but easily my least favorite whisky of the six distilleries I visited (four Speysiders, Talisker, and Oban). Of the four whiskies Oban made available for tasting–the 14, a couple of NASs, and a distillery-only release–the only one I enjoyed was the last. Was it my taste buds or has the product changed? I’d be curious to hear a re-review of this one.

  • I bought some Oban a few months ago after years of having it and believed it was a flavorless unremarkable scotch; I think I might have felt differently if it was in a different price group, but for the $70 there are so many wonderful choices, the least not of which is Bunnahabhain, also a delicate flavor but with heat and silk and full taste. But I kept that bottle of Oban around and it eventually got drank of course. However just recently I purchased a bottle of the Arran 14 year because of the description on the bottle case and I did take that back. It had zero aromatics, and might as well have been moonshine for all it mattered. I served a bit to another scotch lover and he swirled it for upward to 40 minutes and never got a nose on it, or taste and we both agreed it may have had some misfortune at either the cask or in travel, but for the $70 we shouldn’t have to bare that cost. I turned it in and picked up my old faithful Bunnahabhain.

  • I’m less impressed. Perhaps its because I paid over $100 for it, or wanting to try it and hyping it up in my mind, but found it quite… underwhelming. So many folk compared it with Clynelish, Springbank, and Old Pulteney, but I’m not seeing it. Reminds me more of Aberfeldy. Maybe the 43% ABV has something to do with it? Not terrible, just… okay

    • Aberfeldy??? Its all opinion to some degree but Aberfeldy is my least favorite out of the 20 single malts I tried. Oban right at the top with bunna 12 and glendronach 12. Beautiful taste profile..wish it wasn’t morning I’m craving it just thinking of Oban 14.

  • I wish you’d re-review this just because of the label. I received a bottle of this for my birthday today and have been examining the label. The only thing I see that might be an age statement is a 14 on the background of the printed wording. There is nothing that says 14 years old or aged 14 years. I trust no one so I ask you…look at at a recent bottling and tell me if you can say with confidence that this is a 14 year old scotch.

    • I haven’t been inside of a liquor store lately, but I’ll try to get my hands on a recent bottle and let you know. It is a somewhat common practice in the last decade for producers to move age statements to the back label for a few seasons in preparation for dropping it altogether in favor of an NAS expression. Here’s hoping that’s not on the docket for Oban.