Oban. Seaside magic of oranges, honey and sea salt.
Everyone should go to Oban, even if they don’t like whisky. It is what I had always imagined a small fishing village would look like in the northern part of Scotland. It then went on to exceed my expectations. Mind you I was only there for a day. I am a sucker for the ocean. I guess that is why I have always lived on the east or west coast. Lake Ontario was sufficient enough for the beginning of my life. I chose to go to Oban on this day because it really isn’t near anything else. You have to physically choose to hit this distillery on a whisky trip. I am now wishing I had planned a longer stay there than just a day, but oh well. The focus is on the whisky! Unfortunately Diageo, the owner of Oban, does not allow photographs to be taken inside of the equipment and production process. They claim it will cause an explosion with the alcohol in the air. I totally understand the science of that, but I feel this may be in line with when the pilot tells you to turn your electronic devices off. It’s more for their benefit of your attention I believe. This means I apologize in advance for not many pictures.
Before we even talk about the distillery, let’s start first with my
tour guide! He was a very cute Scot and I could understand him! He looked identical to the actor on the left.
Either way, he mentioned on the tour that he eventually dreams of becoming a master blender. I gave him a tip and my card at the end of the tour and told him to let me know when he gets that title and I want to interview him for my blog! It had been a long drive from Glasgow to Oban. It really was a good idea for both myself and the safety of this country for me to get an automatic car. The distillery is in the center of town. It was there first and then as the shipping port grew, it grew around the distillery. It was opened in 1794 and is one of the oldest in Scotland. Either way, after the long, windy drive I decided to have a dram first before the tour. The first dram I had was the Oban Distillers Edition. This isn’t distributed in North America and I had to have it. Here is the tasting note.
Oban Distillers Edition
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Burnt toast with jam, fig, some sort of spicy nut, fig newton, some oak, ripe apple, warm spice on the nose.
Palate: Warm apple pie, spiced tea bag, some honey, salt water taffy (caramel flavor). Tea bag lingers.
Alasdair was my bartender. A nice gentlemen and he told me to sign up for the “Friends of the Classic Malts” book. Diageo as their owner, who also owns 28 other Scottish distilleries, means they can make some of their own rules. Diageo decided to choose the “classic” malts from each region of Scotland and give them special preference. It was a Diageo marketing team that decided on these “chosen” distilleries, no other governing body. Regardless, it was a great marketing idea. Anyways, I signed up for the passbook and now I get access to 12 Diageo distilleries for free! I even get a cool stamp in my passbook and if I go to all 12, I get a Diageo pewter cup! Life is good.
One good thing about the visit is that it was not silent season. This meant I could see the yeast bubbling in the washback’s and the stills were red, hot copper. We came at the part of the process where they were still waiting to cut to the heads. This means I saw the heads running into the spirit safe! Never gets old. In regards to equipment, they had one mash-tun and 4 wooden washback’s. I actually was able to take a peak down into one of the washbacks and could smell the “beer like” liquid. This washback was on its fourth day of fermentation and would be going to the stills for distillation soon.
Now for capacity, they currently work 5 days a week/24 hours per day. This makes their output about 1 million bottles per year, which isn’t that much. They have 4,000 casks aging on site, but of course they are in the middle of town and Diageo needs to be cost effective. Their additional warehouse locations are in Inverness and Glasgow. I did learn something new about the casks and how they are shipped. Oban mostly uses hogshead refilled casks. They typically like their barrels older than just once used bourbon barrels. They buy these barrels from previous distilleries, wineries etc. and they are actually taken apart and the staves are flat packed and shipped. They are then sent to the cooperage and put back together. Of course this makes complete sense from a logistics standpoint, but in my head I imagined the actual barrels never being taken apart and shipped around the world as is.
To end the tour we then were given a sample of their staple product, the 14 year old. You will see this at most decent whisky bars and I actually have never tried it. Here is that tasting note that is going to make you want to try it.
Oban 14 Year
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Oranges, sugar and candy sweetness, almost tasted like I could chew it, very light smoke but the orange and sweetness win.
Palate: Honey, green tea and orange brine. Finishes with a soft orange.
Apparently I should get some sea salt too since it is made by the sea. I didn’t happen to get any on my palate this time, but if I was to get that next time it would make this awesome dram even better!
Now on to Edradour…