Over the last couple of months, I’ve written (moaned?) a lot on these pages about non-age statement whiskies, especially with regards to Talisker. The new bottlings from Talisker over the past 18 months or so have given the brand a chance to refresh itself, as well as proving that non-age statement whiskies aren’t the bogeyman of the whisky industry. And now it seems another whisky is moving in the same direction – my beloved Oban 14 Year Old.
As many of you will know, my love of whisky was sparked by my time working at Oban Distillery. It is one of Diageo’s most popular whiskies, but unfortunately, it’s also one of its smallest distilleries, with only one million bottles produced each year. It has no problem shifting these, with none of the distillery’s output going towards blending. The distillery also produces a sherry finished distiller’s edition, which is also extremely popular, so why the need to introduce a third expression?
Oban Little Bay is currently only available in the US, with wider global distribution expected in winter 2015. The whisky has been matured in a range of casks, including refill casks with new oak cask ends; European sherry oak casks; and refill Hogsheads, which a predominately American oak. Following maturation, these whiskies are then married together in smaller casks, in a similar fashion to Laphroig Quarter Cask.
This maturation process has had the effect of rounding off the spikier edges of the 14 Year Old, whilst adding some sweeter notes. The nose has slightly less smoke, but it’s still very fruity and malty. There’s a big burst of citrusy sweetness on the palate, including Oban’s traditional orange, but with lemon also added into the mix. However, this has come at the expense of the 14 Year Old’s maritime character. The finish is short, but again, is much sweeter.
Overall, the whisky is a nice addition to Oban’s core range. There’s no doubt that adding a new expression to the range will help to boost the distillery’s profile in the short term, whilst further proving that whiskies don’t need an age on the front to be considered good. But for a distillery which already struggles to keep up with demand, this is a curious additional – let’s watch this space…