Oban (Distiller’s Edition)

A Note on my tasting choices: I’ve been criticized for discussing expensive malts on this blog, and here comes another one. I’d just like to describe my strategy for choosing what to review: I sample anything that I can get my hands on, whether it’s $20 or $200, and I post those tasting notes despite my goal of reviewing mostly sub-$50 drams. I generally only purchase full bottles that are under $50, with a few notable “special occasion” purchases. I like to keep two or three bottles of expensive Scotch, several bottles of sub-$50 whisky, and a rotating selection of at least four value drams: generally blends, 10 year-old single malts, and bourbons or ryes.

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, 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, and now 300 barrels a year for the new 18 year-old. The Distiller’s Edition is a yearly release of the usual 14-year Oban which is further matured for 6-18 months in a Montilla Fino sherry butt (which is always a first-fill cask – in other words has only held sherry before). I tasted some of the 2010 bottling, which was distilled in 1995.

Nose: Light hint of red grape, otherwise pure Oban: floral heather, deep golden honey, apple cider. This also shows some nice almond or marzipan, and is light and dry.

Palate: Dry. Elegant light sherry, with a wave of deep black cherry, sweet apple juice, and the characteristic honey. A very nice blending of the Oban style with a delicate sherry fruit basket.

Finish: Black cherry again, plus some light fading wood tannins and a bare hint of sweet smoke. Wow.

Overall: I actually prefer this dram over the 18-year, although its price puts it out of consideration for a spot in my regular cabinet. The 14 year remains my go-to Scotch for a light, honeyed Highlander, even above many similarly-styled Speysiders. However, if you’re familiar with Oban and want to see what a little high-quality sherry does to the mix, you owe it to yourself to try this one out.

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 (Distiller’s Edition)
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $89-$100
Acquired: (1/4 oz tasting sample) K&L Wines and Spirits, Redwood City, CA. http://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sku=1053064

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    • Oban is sweet and relatively light. Glenmorangie is pretty similar, especially the Nectar d’Or 12-year (which is finished in Sauternes wine casks). There’s also Dalwhinnie 15, Glenlivet 15 & 18, and Glenfiddich 15. The Balvenie is also similar, especially the Single Barrel 15-year. Scotches that are mildly sherried (like Balvenie DoubleWood 12 or 17), or Glenrothes will be similar, but a little fruitier.

  • I was at Oban Oct 2017 and enjoyed the tour but didn’t particularly think the 14 year was a great whiskey. A little too spicy. Picked up a bottle of the distillers edition from 2016 as a Christmas present for my girlfriend, mostly for nostalgic value to remember our time in the highlands. However, it turned out to be one of the best malts we have had. A little more mellow which allows some subtle smile to come through on the finish. Totally worth the price tag, I will keep some of this around at all times.