By Kurt Maitland
The Oban Distillery is found on the west coast of Scotland, in the port town of the same name. One could think of Oban as one of the malt cornerstones in Diageo’s whisky empire, since its flagship 14 year old expression is one of the six whiskies in Diageo’s Classic Malts series. Yet Oban is also one of the smallest distilleries in Diageo’s Scotch portfolio, with just two pot stills and an annual production capacity of just 870,000 liters. Diageo doesn’t advertise Oban much, but that’s because they know how good it is and whisky fans already seek it out in all of its variations.
Little Bay is the first NAS expression for Oban. I’ve been told that this expression was named “Little Bay” because the word Oban translates to ‘little bay’ in Gaelic. That makes this “Oban’s Oban” in a sense, but that is another story.
This expression has been created with whiskies of different ages, and matured in three types of casks: first-fill European oak ex-sherry casks; re-fill casks with new oak cask ends; and re-fill American oak hogsheads. These whiskies were then married for a short time in smaller oak casks to allow for more contact with the wood and integration. This same method of aging in smaller casks is often used in the US by small, new distillers to help age their spirits faster, and is not unknown in Scotland (Laphroaig Quarter Cask). The final product is bottled at 43% abv.
Color: New penny copper.
Nose: Orange rind, cloves with a whiff of sea salt, and vanilla and sherry
Taste: The nose of this release does not lie. The flavor packs lots of orange zest, clove and fruit. Blindfolded, I would have not thought of this as an Oban. There is a little smoke but again not like what you would expect when you hear the magic word “Oban”. In fact it reminds me of a whisky version of a favorite Bigelow tea of mine, Constant Comment (and no, that is not a paid advertisement, just a sidebar). The texture is Slightly oily at the start, then quickly turning dry as the cloves and spice of the finish kick in.
With a little water, the whisky becomes drier and slightly spicier with the addition of water.
Finish: The finish on this expression is the nose come to life. The orange and cloves are here with a hint of tropical fruit (I’m thinking pineapple) mixed with the long, spicy finish.
This is full of fruit, spicy and a great intro to an NAS. It was a joy to drink and if this is what Diageo is going to do with NAS releases I’m all for it.
This release runs around $60, which is probably the only thing I can ding it for as it is few dollars more than the standard Oban 14 Year Old expression.