Life

Expression Session — Tasting Five Whiskies In The Oban Portfolio

Finding the best single malt scotch is a lifelong endeavor. There are a lot of bottles out there from distilleries big and small, with a massive amount of variation between them. Remember, each region — Speyside, Lowland, Highland, Campbeltown, and Islay — is known for a specific flavor profile and a certain level of peatiness. A true aficionado can taste the regional variations and identify them with ease.

One of my all-time favorite Highland distilleries in Scotland is Oban. My love of this relatively tiny distillery in the small town of Oban on the Scottish coast has been cultivated over the course of a lifelong journey through whisky. Last year I finally got to go to Scotland and tour the Oban Distillery, which sealed my love for the stuff. The small operation has only two antique copper pot stills and the entire company is run by only seven people, many of whom live at the distillery in apartments above the offices.

I’ve been lucky enough to sit at a few Oban tastings over the years. I’ve also ran my own tasting recently, with five signature bottles. Those are the bottles we’re going to talk about today. While these expressions are on the higher-end price-wise, they’re truly stand-out single malts that’ll wow even the most passive scotch lover.

The bottles themselves are well-designed yet simple. The juice inside is, in my opinion, whisky that’ll help you fall in love with Scotch single malts once and for all. Plus, they make great gifts and are all available for delivery right now.

OBAN BAY RESERVE — THE NIGHT’S WATCH GAME OF THRONES EDITION

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $80

The Whisky:

This expression is a reissue of Oban’s Bay Reserve, which is a no-age-statement whisky. The bottle was branded with the Night’s Watch oath to commemorate the final season of Game Of Thrones. Oban was chosen for this due to the huge rock wall behind the distillery that conjures visions of “The Wall” on the show.

Tasting Notes:

Mild notes of spice and wood with a bit of malt greets you. There’s a real sense of mild spice followed by bitter orange zest and hint of tart fruit. A drop of water reveals creamy texture and more of that spice, wood, orange zest, and cherry on the palate. There’s a whisper of smoke on the end with a hint of brine.

OBAN 14

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $85

The Whisky:

This is a great gateway scotch to have on hand. The juice is classically made and then matured in the Oban storehouses for 14 long years. The end result is a thoroughly accessible single malt that bridges being a great sipper with offering a superb cocktail base.

Tasting Notes:

Citrus, salt, and a billow of peat smoke open this one up in classic fashion. That citrus carries on as a foundation for mild spices, a note of honey, hints of pears, and plummy dried fruits mingle on the tongue. The oak spice and peaty smoke meet on the end with a slight malty sweetness as the sip fades.

OBAN DISTILLER’S EDITION

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $104

The Whisky:

This expression is a bit of a love letter to the town of Oban and the community that was built around the distillery in the center of the town. The whisky is the distiller’s creation — harnessing double-aged whiskies finished in Montilla Fino sherry casks. The end result is a fine scotch that celebrates the wonders of Oban.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a vinous edge alongside a clear sense of the briny sea, notes of orange zest, and a wisp of smoke. The sweet malts have a toffee feel as the apple and grape fruitiness counter the sea salt depths. The sip fades quickly as a note of vinous sherry, oak, and brine pull away like a receding wave.

OBAN LITTLE BAY

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $80

The Whisky:

Oban is Gaelic for “Little Bay.” So this is a bit like saying Little Bay Little Bay. The juice in the is expression is aged in both old American and old European oak before being transferred into finishing barrels for a little extra depth.

Tasting Notes:

Fruit dominates up front. Apple, malts, mild butterscotch, orange zest, and a clear hit of cloves dance across the palate. A drop of water moves the sip towards a note of fresh mint sprigs alongside the apple and clove, giving an almost spiced apple cake feel to the sip as it quickly fades away.

OBAN AGED 21 YEARS

ABV: 57.9%
Average Price: $495

The Whisky:

This is a monster bottle (at a very prohibitive price-point). This limited-release from 2018 is bottled from whisky mellowed for 21 years in a second-fill European oak barrel. It’s devilishly simple yet deeply provocative and well-worth the investment if you’re craving something truly special.

Tasting Notes:

Notes of salted cream mingle with a subtle sense of whisky malts and oak. The sip leans into touches of bitter cacao and toasted coconut with a hazelnut underpinning, creating a fatty feel with the cacao. Adding water brings about a counterpoint of fresh mint with the cacao and coconut like a luscious yet light salty-sweet dessert. The end is fascinatingly short, making you want to pour another dram immediately.

Check out our LIVE tasting of each bottle below with food and travel writer Megan Murphy and UPROXX Life Deputy Editor Zach Johnston!

×