By Elizabeth Emmons
Oban, meaning “little bay of caves”, is a Highland single malt whiskey. Oban is owned by Diageo and is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, with only 2 pot stills. This particular variation, the Distiller’s Edition, is produced from 300 barrels which are set aside for this annual release. The Distiller’s Edition is made from Oban’s 14 year which is then matured for 6-18 months in Montilla Fino sherry butt. For those that are unfamiliar, a sherry butt is a large first-fill cask which houses sherry prior to being used for whiskey maturation. This double-maturation process gives this scotch a deep and layered flavor.
The Distiller’s Edition comes in the standard Oban bottle, but with a different aesthetic. It has a dark blue label with mostly gold writing and comes in a matching round container of the same design. It certainly looks more regal, and the whiskey itself holds up to that image.
This particular edition was bottled in 1998 at 43% abv, and was released in 2013. It is a truly stunning whiskey; I often call it liquid gold. It is one of my favorite whiskies because it is smooth and balanced with a pleasant spiciness.
It is a medium copper color with clear burnt orange tones. The nose on this bottle is mildly sweet and spicy and is aromatic. It is subtle, however, and is not one of those whiskeys you can smell from several feet away. You really have to get your nose in it.
This Oban has a medium viscosity and is slightly oily in the mouth. It is pleasantly spicy and fairly dry which is due to its months in the sherry casks. The pleasant sweetness in the nose comes from the fruity element (think dried plums or dried orange rind — nothing too saccharine). When sipped neat, sweeter notes are tasted first, and then the spiciness overpowers, giving way to a pleasant burn at the front of the mouth. It is mild and not overpowering – a cinnamon/peppery kind of spicy.
With water, the oiliness is still present and the spiciness is more immediate and is milder. The sweetness is also less present. While on the drier side, there is still a lasting finish, with the spiciness being the last to go. Personally, I think this whiskey is best without water.
This was bought for around $100 in 2013, but as this is a limited release, it is difficult to find. If you find it, I recommend you buy it. While this is not a cheap whisky, it is worth every penny.