Oban is a really small distillery. In fact, Whiskybase.com has only 55 Oban expressions listed (99 if you include different versions of the same expression), which is right around the number of expressions (including versions) bottled by some closed distilleries such as Millburn, Convalmore, Glenury Royal and Glenugie. Unlike them, however, Oban is alive and kicking. Its popular 14 year old (Which I’ll review in the not too distant future) is a a staple daily tipple, and the distillery has many aficionados. In fact, Diageo has recently begun increasing the brand’s visibility, as it’s rather popular in the United States, and has just passed the one million annual bottle sales mark in 2013.
In fact, Nick Offerman did a popular “Makers of Oban” video in his amusing My Tales of Whisky video series:
Despite its popularity, and being part of Diageo’s Classic Malts, the distillery can’t really increase capacity, as the distillery has no room to grow, being in the center of town. Recently a small increase was achieved by increasing the charge in the mash tun. Oban whisky has an unusually long fermentation time of 110 hours limiting the distillery to six mashes a week, so the distillery’s capacity is really quite finite. Also, to the best of my knowledge, Oban single malt is not blended into any blends.
Only three Obans have ever been bottled in the Special Releases, a 32 year old 1969 released in 2002, a 20 year old released the next year, followed a full decade later by this 21 year old released in 2013. They were all released at cask strength, unchill filtered.
Oban 21 Year Old, Rejuvenated American Oak and Second-Fill Ex-Bodega Casks, Diageo 2013 Special Releases, 2860 Bottles (58.5% ABV, NCF)
Appearance: Bronze, very small droplets slowly rolling off the ring.
Nose: Coastal sherry!! Salt, tart sherry sweetness, wet sultana raisins with salt sprinkled on top. Ginger and warm wood spices (cinnamon and a hint of clove), a certain dryness on the nose, dried fruit. “Old sherry” notes come and go.
Palate: Tart sherry notes, sweetness on the tongue, ginger, cinnamon. This is on the cusp of old sherry. This dram needs water, it’s mouthdrying with a tangy sweetness and notes of dried apricots, note of fresh peach, pepper and some lemon rind.
Linger: Tart notes on the tongue, drying light spice in the gullet with a note of cinnamon.
This is a beautiful, complex whisky. Being very robust, it needs both time and water, and will peel open layer after layer. A true joy.
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Thanks Ishai for this stunner!!