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Monday, July 30, 2018

Oban Little Bay

What Oban Little Bay is, other than an NAS release that costs nearly the same as the 14 year old release, is a little vague. Here are descriptions from industry sites:

1. the whisky "rests" in "small oak casks for some time"
2. finished in "small oak casks"
3. "aged in part in smaller casks"
4. married in "200-litre ex-bourbon barrels"
5. refill American oak hogsheads, European oak Sherry casks and refill casks with new ends
6. official site: nothing

The first three items say basically the same thing, while the next two say something potentially much different. And then good ol' Diageo doesn't help at all. There seems to be a whole lotta talk about Oban taking a mix of #5 and then giving it a #2 (er, item number two, above). There's no mention of what "small cask" means, but if it's just ex-bourbon barrels (per #4) then it's not a big deal, nor unusual, nor should the end result be as aggressively oaky as a quarter cask or octave finish. It still seems as if plenty of carpentry (or cooperage) was involved.

I guess plaudits should go out to Diageo for not spinning some malarkey about the story behind the whisky, which is an almost revolutionary act at this point in time. And there's no Gaelic surname. Since Oban means "Little Bay", it's just Oban Squared.

sample generously provided by St. Brett P.
Distillery: Oban
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Western Highlands
Age: ???
Maturation: see the introductory paragraphs
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered? Uh huh
Caramel Colorant? Yarp

Why does Diageo color the Obans so aggressively? This one is orange. The nose doesn't start off promising. Mostly vanilla and cardboard. Slowly, notes of hay and dried apricots ease in. Then honey, orange candy, simple syrup and gummi bears. And paper. And flowers. Acidic citrus dominates the otherwise very sweet palate. A little bit of milk chocolate and cayenne pepper. Vanilla, ginger, toasted oak spices, caramel and vanilla. And there's the hint of cardboard. The finish has the same acidity, as well as the sugar and caramel. Toasted coconut and black pepper. Vanilla.

Oban Little Bay reads like a blend, albeit a blend at 1/3rd Little Bay's price range. It probably works best as a dessert whisky. American oak casks flavor the whole thing, but never go bitter. Still the paper and cardboard notes are unfortunate. I'd say more, but it looks like MAO covered this same ground three months ago. While this whisky was probably aimed at blend fans, it comes across like another NAS that's so oaky it barely resembles its distillery mates.

Availability - most specialty whisky retailers
Pricing - $50-$80, though some US retailers are offering it for $40 or less, a fate similar to Talisker Storm
Rating - 78