Of all the whisky regions, the Highlands are perhaps the hardest to pin down to a regional style. It’s not all that surprising when you consider that the area takes in everything from Glengoyne, just outside Glasgow, to Ben Nevis in Fort William, Tomatin in Inverness, Pulteney in Wick, to Blair Athol in Pitlochry and everything in between. Looking for geographical similarities in style here is pointless. A good argument could be made, in fact, for splitting the region into smaller areas. The spirit from many Perthshire distilleries carry similarities for example. For this review though I’m concentrating on the west coast and the picturesque town of Oban.
A Brewery was founded in Oban in 1793 but within a year it had moved onto producing whisky. Over the course of its long history, the facility has had multiple owners as well as a few periods of closures. The distillery sits on a small site, right at the heart of the town and it’s location has proved a significant obstacle to any expansion plans that any owner may have harnoured. As things stand, the distillery and its single malt has found a home with Diageo as part of their ‘classic malts’ range.
There are only three regular expressions of Oban single malt, the non age statement Little Bay, a 14 year old and the ‘Distillers Edition’. While it is a shame that there isn’t an expansive range to explore it is understandable… All of the whisky made there goes into single malt bottlings (unlike many other distillers who send a quantity to blenders) and they’re operating at full pelt just to keep this small selection going.
There’s a lot of text on the label of the bottle but oddly, none of it is about whisky. There’s something about Vikings, the Stone of Destiny and Clan MacDougall but what any of it has to do with the distillery is beyond me. I enjoy dwelling on the history and mythology that comes with Scotland’s distilleries but this is perhaps a little bit much. Some information about the spirit would be nice – what kind of cask it was matured in for example.
So, regarding the whisky… The nose is full of Honey, Barley, Orange and Marzipan with a little Sea Breeze. On the palate it’s Salty with Honey, Dark Chocolate and Orange. It’s really pleasant actually and particularly when drinking it neat, I found it had a satisfyingly thick mouth feel for a malt at 43% abv.
The Scores: About the scoring system
Smell: 16/20. Very well balanced: each element plays a part without dominating.
Taste: 17/20. This is a decent dram alright. I love the saltiness and there’s good weight to it.
Value: 6/10. Seems to have climbed in price of late and is coming in at close to £50 now. It’s a decent single malt but not quite unique enough for me to justify the higher price point.