The Oban distillery is located in the scenic West Highland fishing town of the same name, which has turned into a favorite Scottish vacation spot. The distillery is considered a classic Highland distillery, producing whisky in the traditional age-old methods used for centuries. It remains one of the smallest licensed distilleries in Scotland.
The Oban 14 is a classic dram from this distillery. It is satisfying and rich. I love the blend of seaside flavors that I associate with Island whiskies and the rich, fruity mainland elements. This whisky offers interesting dichotomies in every area, from the rich yet fresh nose to the sweet and burning finish. It is an interesting dram, yet it feels like it is missing something.
One of the things that I noticed immediately about the Oban 14 is the legs. They seemed thin, but they hung around for much longer than I expected. I really was not sure what type of texture to expect. Another thing to remember: this is a whisky that loves the air. I noticed that my dram improved considerably between the beginning and the end. Even the whisky in the bottle seemed better after being opened.
Nose: 23/25. Smoke is the predominant smell, but there are maritime elements that are reminiscent of an Islay malt. There is just a hint of citrus sweetness along with a bit of freshly mown hay and damp earth. I can detect the sherry, but just barely. There is a tiny bit of sharp ethanol, but not an unpleasant level. The Oban 14 smells like a Scottish seaside town, with the crisp freshness of ocean air.
Palate: 20/25. The palate is richer than I would have predicted from the nose. It is smooth with a citrus tang, balanced by rich oak and peated malt flavors. The smoke and salty ocean elements are still present, but they have moved to the background and allowed the more traditional Highland flavors to take center stage. The texture is so thick and oily that it is almost chewy. Adding water makes it silkier and also brings out floral elements, although it still coats my mouth pleasantly.
Finish: 19/25. The finish is medium length, neither too short nor lingering. There is more fruit and oak here, along with rich vanilla and caramel elements. The smoke flavors have disappeared, which is interesting because they usually hang around until the end. However, there is a new flavor that appears: iodine. I noticed that the Oban 14 had a lot of burn going down, which is unexpected because there was little heat in the rest of my tasting experience.
Character: 22/25. The Oban 14 is satisfying and balanced. It has a lot of character, with both traditional Highland elements and less expected ones mingling happily. Despite the range of flavors, it is light and clean, a refreshing malt that would be perfect on a warm evening. This is a Highland malt for Islay and Island whisky lovers, but I think almost all Scotch lovers will find this an easy favorite.
Overall Rating: 84/100