When Diageo hooked up with HBO to create a series of single malts to celebrate the final series of Game of Thrones, the general reaction from those interested in both was: shut up and take my money!
Of the 8 original single malt releases, 7 of them were contained within off-white tubes that garnered the family sigil of their chosen Houses: the lion for House Lannister, the three-headed dragon for House Targaryen, the dire wolf of House Stark etc. The one remaining bottling however took a different approach. Adorned in all black, the 8th bottle was a custom made single malt whisky from Oban to represent The Night’s Watch. In the Game of Thrones canon of stories, joining the Night’s Watch is often referred to as “taking the black”, so it seems appropriate that the one bottle chosen to represent those who ‘choose’ to forgo their Houses and lineage in the name of protecting the lands of Westeros from all that is unholy lurking north of ‘The Wall’, should stand out from those who retain their name, dressed in black.
As with all the bottlings in the series, The Night’s Watch contains a description as to why the distillery has been paired with their GoT establishment:
The sworn brothers of The Night’s Watch take an oath and pledge their lives to protect the Seven Kingdoms and guard the realms of men from the terrors that lurk beyond the massive and ancient ice barrier known as The Wall. They face a frozen wasteland which legends say is filled with wildlings, giants, and the terrifying forces of The Night King and the long night he brings. They are the swords in the darkness and the watchers on the wall.
Oban sits beneath the steep cliff that overlooks the bay in the frontier between the West Highlands and the Islands, separating land and sea, just as Castle Black sits between Westeros and what lies beyond The Wall. This liquid’s richness is balanced by a woody, spicy dryness that could undoubtedly keep The Night’s Watch warm on even the coldest of nights.Oban Bay Reserve – The Night’s Watch
As a real treat for GoT fans, the bottle and tube also brandishes the full oath that each ‘crow’ takes when joining the noble yet ignoble band of men to guard The Wall:
Hear my words and bear witness to my vow: Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.The Night’s Watch
As for the whisky itself, this is one of the two most expensive in the original range, with an RRP of £65 (alongside the Lagavulin 9yo) but there is little description about the whisky itself or its origins beyond this simply being a no-age-statement Oban release: The Oban Bay Reserve, bottled at 43% ABV.
Following the pattern of rest of the range, this is released “Mit Farbstoff”, meaning that they’ve added colouring to the whisky to create a uniform colour to the liquids. Hopefully that doesn’t distract or take away from the team itself.
A really big hit of juicy, zesty orange fills the nostrils. We’re not just talking an orange flavour here, it is really reminiscent of freshly squeezed oranges. Sweetness, juiciness and zestiness just jump out of the glass. There’s a juicy raisin smell sitting amongst this fruit bowl too. There’s a delicious milk chocolate flavour that develops as this sits in the glass too, with a little sea salty edge to prevent this from being an overly sweet treat.
Wow. This is so soft and creamy in texture that it just slips across the tongue, delivering that milk chocolate orange flavour with some added pep courtesy of the oak and alcohol. Come to think of it, the nose was so inviting that I didn’t notice much of a nose prickle at all – it has saved it all for the palate, and it works a treat. That chocolate note develops with a digestive biscuit-like malt, and the distillery’s signature salinity just offsets it all.
There’s a decent little peppery fizzle to finish this dram and assures you that this black bottle may actually contain a single malt and not a dessert wine or liqueur.
I could drink a lot of this. That’s the short version of the overview. It’s hard not to compare it to the core 14yo, as it is a personal fave, and this seems like a mellowed out version of that. At its recommended retail price, this GoT release would ordinarily be more expensive than the regular 14yo, but it can still be found at a discounted price, if you look in the right places, putting it in line with the core release and (at the time of writing) for those in the UK, you can buy direct from Diageo via the malts.com site with free delivery and a cheeky set of samples thrown in for good measure. The 14yo is such a great mix of the orange, smoke, salt, and malt flavours that have become the distillery’s hallmarks, and in the 14yo each of those flavours really stand out – this GoT whisky features all of those flavours but seemingly dialled down and smoothed out. If I did a food pairing, this would go great with chocolate digestives and/or segments of Terry’s (Milk) Chocolate Orange. Come to think of it, if McVitie’s released a milk chocolate orange digestive, I’d be all over that and waiting until a reasonable hour in the day to have them together with this whisky. Overall, this is probably my favourite of the GoT series so far. It is also the first of them that I think I’d happily pick up outside of the GoT series and might therefore have to capitalise on the discount price (£45) before they do disappear for good.
Suggested musical accompaniment: if you want to double down on the GoT fan experience, then enjoy a dram of this along to To Take The Black by The Sword from their second album, Gods Of The Earth 🤘 (or just the original GoT soundtrack itself)