By Richard Thomas
Oban 14 Year Old is part of the Classic Malts collection of Diageo, and it’s a fair billing. It’s one of those single malt expressions that most Scotch fans are familiar with, and it sells well. The 14 Year Old expression is even a fairly old one, having been introduced in 1988. When something has been around longer than a big chunk of the people drinking it, I think labeling it a classic is justified.
The Oban Distillery itself is more than classic, but classical. It was erected in 1794, before whisky-making was legalized in Scotland, in the namesake western Scottish port town of Oban. The location puts it in the Highland Region, and Oban is said to define a style within the style, “West Highland,” bridging the smokiness of Islay and the light sweetness of the Highlands proper. With origins in the British Regency era, Oban has seen the ups and downs of the entire history of the Scotch whisky industry, and therefore has been bought, closed and reopened a few times each during its history. Reflecting its modest beginnings, it remains one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, with just two pot stills to its name.
In the glass (Oban 14 is a 43% ABV whisky), the liquid has a solid gold appearance. The scent is one of crisp apples and demerara sugar meeting dry straw and oak, plus a slight pinch of clove to give it some spiciness. There is also just the barest hint of smoke, so modest one might even miss it without paying serious attention or knowing to go look for it.
The liquid has a silky texture, and a flavor that start out like a baked apple desert, sweet with honey, fruit and baking spices, but then turns dry and peppery on the middle palate. The finish runs a touch spicy and a touch fruity, and lingers for a spell.
More sweet than spicy, and barely smoky at all, this is a very well rounded, easy drinking single malt. While it has some body to it, it’s far from heavy. I think it would be perfect served as a dessert pour, and is otherwise an imminently approachable single malt.
In the U.S., Oban 14 Year Old is a bit pricey at $75. Over in the U.K., it fetches £50, and given the exchange rate in these post-Brexit days, it’s worth your while to pick up a (slightly smaller 700 ml) bottle if you should find yourself in Britain.