I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with Oban 14 over the past 2 months. It’s a bottling from the West Highlands, weighing in at 43% ABV and is produced by drinks giant Diageo, so you can bet there’s a helping of E150A colourant added to the mix alongside chill filtration. So be it. Personally I’m drawn to natural, craft presentations but that doesn’t stop me buying a bottle just because it doesn’t fit that category. Diageo set out with consistency and uniformity in mind and that’s just the way it is.
The packaging seems to be some kind of attempt to set a record for the most words ever squeezed onto a cardboard tube, with both that and the bottle’s label being adorned with tales of early man settling in caves near the distillery, and of viking invaders. No real mention of any tasting notes or indeed any idea what to expect from the contents of the bottle however! Oh well, I didn’t buy it for the packaging.
I wasn’t too blown away by Oban 14 when I first opened the bottle. It cost £45.95 and seemed a bit lacking in any real character upon it’s arrival on my scotch shelf. I’ve done away with around 75% of the bottle now so it’s had a good thorough testing, and as I sit down to write this review I find myself enjoying it a whole lot more. The rich sweetness has opened up with some exposure to the air and it’s come alive, typically becoming really quite decent as soon as I approach the end of the bottle.
I tend to follow the rule of “a minute in the glass for a year in the cask” when drinking whisky, particularly scotch, and this dram is no exception, in fact I’m finding it at it’s best once it’s been in my Glencairn for around 25 minutes.
The nose gives pretty instantaneous aromas of fresh fruit and rich spice. Pineapple stands out to me in particular, as does a lemon sherbert note and a salty aroma reminiscent of Old Pulteney. Pretty sharp and fresh to smell without coming across as youthful or under-matured. There’s a hint of smoke in there too, hiding out in the background somewhere.
In the mouth Oban 14 brings more fruity richness, now incorporating some pleasant dried fruit flavours and more of the zesty pineapple character. There is some spice, a little bit of cinnamon and the smoke flavour is slightly more present now, although doesn’t do much to steal the show from the fruitiness. Very fresh again with a clean oak influence. This would make a good summer dram.
The finish is pleasant enough, and sees the fruit flavours abate slightly and give way to peppery spice which gently fades away. Decent.
All things considered not a bad dram at all. 14 years is a respectable length of time to age a whisky in this day and age, and I think this malt has benefitted from it. The temptation must have been there to bottle it at 12 or even 10 years old, and I’m glad they waited that little bit of extra time to really put some quality notes into this bottle.