There are classics and there are all-time classics. The Oban 14 year old falls into the latter category. The spirit for this whisky has been produced the same way since the distillery was founded in the small fishing town of Oban back in 1794. Ever since the distillery found its feet and it’s distinctive recipe, it hasn’t looked back. The 14 year old expression has been a staple release of the whiskymakers since the early 1800s. With that, you are tasting a little bit of history. The spirit has been matured in ex-bourbon refill American oak hogshead casks and is captured at 43% ABV.
It opens with a light, heathery, fruity and zesty sets of smells amongst the initial alcoholic burn. Once that settles though that zesty and citrusy set of flavours is joined by a real heather honey sweetness, a good bodied malt and just a little smoke.
As booze tickles the tongue, those fruity notes just keep rolling in. Think orchard fruits, maybe even tropical fruits. There’s a good malt backbone to it too, and a pinch of salt, before the oak spice picks up at the end of the sip.
A good lingering finish with the orange zest flavour slowly fading out only for the underlying smoke to endure and last a little longer.
It’s kind of got everything. A little salty; a little malty; honey sweetness, big orange zest (amongst other citrus fruits); and a lovely underlying smoke that doesn’t really overplay it’s part. All too often if a whisky describes itself as having a smoky flavour then that tends to be the dominant tasting note, but that’s not the case here. I had the pleasure of going to the Oban distillery a few years ago and it offered a great tour and insight into the whisky and it’s history. The distillery itself is in the heart of the town: not because it’s a good location, but because the town was basically built around it. As a Diageo exponent, it also offered the full range of their wares in the gift shop, but it was the traditional 14yo that made me part with my cash. To be fair, it was a close call between that and the Distillery Edition, but the staff at the bar explained that it was essentially the usual 14yo but with an extra few months maturation in a sherry cask, and for the price hike, it didn’t sway me from their long-standing signature. And why would it? It’s certainly worked for 200 or so years. Plus, Nick Offerman apparently drinks it as a deviation from his Lagavulin fixation, if you believe his (Diageo sponsored…) “My Tales Of Whisky” video clips. For a 14yo single malt, it does carry a slightly higher price tag than similar brands, but, as one of the first single malts that I tried and loved (which I’m trying to not let dictate my review), I can confirm that it is worth the investment if you want a good, balanced and reliable malt or simply a classic on your shelf.