At the Whisky Show, I got to taste most of the 2018 Special Releases. The Show merits its own report, and I’ll be reviewing a few of the Special Releases. Oban, however, has a special place in my heart.
Oban is an almost hidden gem in the Diageo portfolio. Indeed, the 14 is fairly well liked in the USA, where an 18 year old version lives under the radar of European imbibers. But all in all, you can count the number of Oban expressions on one hand (assuming you don’t count each DE on its own).
Oban has very few official releases, and virtually no independent bottlings out there (the latest I was able to find was from 1984, bottled as SMWS 110.1). You have the Little Bay, the 14, the DE, the 18 and the Distillery Exclusive. You had the old discontinued 12 Year Old, a few editions of the Manager’s Dram, a Manager’s Choice and a running Distillery Exclusive bottling. Special Releases held the 1969 (from 2002), the previous 21 (from 2013) and a 20 year old from the 2004 Releases. Incidentally, that 20 year old is the only one I didn’t get to taste, and is, thus, on my unicorn list for quite some time.
Photo Credit: Diageo
Unlike many of the Special Releases, this expression doesn’t note how many bottles were made. All we know is that there’s a limited number of bottles available.
Oban 21, Distilled 1996, Diageo Special Releases 2018, Refill European-Oak Butts, (57.9% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Gold, slow and long legs off a sturdy necklace.
Nose: Hint of smoke on the beach, honey and salt, freshly ground peppercorns with a hint of lemon zest. Some wood spices, and a chalky dryness with a hint of crushed pineapple and a hint of ash.
Palate: Intensely spicy and honeyed with tropical fruit (pineapple and star fruit) with a slightly sour unripe or green mango. There’s also a hint of lemon.
Linger: Sweet on the tongue, light pepper around the gullet. The sweet notes are pretty long. After the second sip, the pepper intensifies, and the linger remains a bit chalky.
This is a fascinating dram, as the refill sherry European oak butts left a minuscule sherry signature on the whisky. The previous Special Release from Oban, also a 21 year old had much more sherry than this one. Whereas this expression is truly a celebration of the Oban spirit.