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.