Class: Coastal West Highland Single Malt Scotch
Reviewer: Andrew Owen
What you essentially have with Oban Distiller's Edition (as well as the DE's from Lagavulin, Talisker, Dalwhinnie, and Cragganmore) is the standard age stated malt finished in sherry casks for a short second maturation prior to bottling. In Oban's case, after aging 14 years in ex-bourbon casks, the whisky is transferred into Spanish Oak Montilla Fino Sherry casks for an additional period of time that is typically around 12 months. Despite not carrying an explicit age statement, the Distiller's Edition bottles do contain a distillation year and bottling year, leaving you to do the simple subtraction yourself.
As I discussed in my review of Oban's 14 year old single malt, the Oban distillery is nestled right into the heart of town next to the sea with no room to expand, making it comparatively small and its output relatively low. This means that each annual release of the Distiller's Edition is fairly limited. In the U.S. this bottle retails from $80-100, which is about a $15 premium over the 14 year.
If you keep up with our YouTube channel primarily ran by Brett, you've noticed that he has also reviewed this whisky on camera for you. In fact, the whisky I tasted for this review is from the exact same bottle, so for a 2nd opinion on literally the exact same whisky, check out his review as well.
- Distilled in 2001, bottled in 2016.
- Like you already know, Diageo keeps their lips sealed about whether or not any chill filtering or caramel color addition has taken place
- Aged in a centralized warehouse in the Scottish lowlands
- Bottled at 43% ABV
Nose: Luscious and soft. Full and rounded raw honey, sweet malt, and puffed grains sit atop a gentle layer of pureed blackberry and raspberry. Just a touch of grassiness. After a rest, the fruit takes on some acidity/tartness, and some toasted spices and candied orange peel develop.
Palate: Soft with a full-bodied mouthfeel. Blackberry preserves, fresh honey, and aromatic florals play equal roles, with hints of tart cranberry in the background. Some sweet malt and vanilla bean come in on the tail end. It’s classic Oban with berries mixed in. Fantastic balance, as the fino cask does not overwhelm the house characteristic, but compliments it beautifully.
Finish: Blackberry jam, malty sweet cream, honey, and just a touch of grassy peat. Medium length. Extraordinary balance.
Buying Recommendation: Must Try! My typical philosophy is that anything that can attain a "truly exceptional" (90 or above) score from me AND be found for under $100 is worth buying a bottle of, sans hesitation. You would certainly do well to snag a bottle of this, especially if you find it in the $80-85 range.
This is where my ethos begins to clash with my taste buds. Ultimately, the philosophy of this website is that a whisky is judged by the experience given to you by the liquid in the bottle. The score is derived only from the drinking experience, and nothing more. Hence the truly exceptional score for a truly exceptional whisky. So why the "must try" rather than "must buy"? Because, while I love Oban's single malt, I abhor pretty much everything that Diageo does with it. The most admirable thing they do is bottle at a semi-respectable 43% ABV (although I'd much prefer 46%). So while I love this whisky, I will buy a similar bottle that is 46% or above, non-chill filtered, natural colored, and aged in a local warehouse (bonus points if its dunnage style) even if my score of it is a couple points lower. In sum, its a testament to the quality of the distillery itself and its workers that the whisky still tastes as good as it does despite its corporate owner's unneeded meddling. End of rant. Don't let my blabbings keep you from this whisky, as it is well worth trying/buying. Cheers!
The Rating Scale
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: truly exceptional
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