Oban On My Mind

On a sunny, picturesque afternoon back in 2012, David OG and I drove west across central Scotland towards the seaside town of Oban; home to one of the most iconic distilleries in Scotland. Located downtown, right on the main drag, the distillery is tucked between a small hill and the road that traverses the small bay, for which the town is named after (An t-Òban means "little bay" in Gaelic). We pulled into to the tiny car park, unloaded our cameras, and played whisky tourists for a few hours. There was no business to be done at Oban; we were merely there as huge fans of the whisky. With the latest batch of Oban 18 having recently arrived at K&L, and the West Coast release of the new Oban Little Bay due to occur within the next week or so, I've been thinking a lot about our visit to the distillery two years ago. I really enjoyed that tour. Heck, I really enjoy Oban's whisky. What a great place.

The crazy thing about Oban distillery is that there's only one wash still and one spirit still. That's the same amount of wash and spirit stills you'll find at American upstarts like Westland and Cut Spike (one single pair!). With only four wooden washbacks doing fermentation, Oban is one of the smallest distilleries in the Diageo empire (only Royal Lochnagar is smaller). Its output is so miniscule that none of the whisky produced is used for the Johnnie Walker blends. As the label on each bottle states: "Only so much can be made; it is never enough." Yet, I've got hundreds of bottles of Oban 18 sitting in my warehouse right now. How is Diageo finding the volume right now? They must run that place around the clock these days!

I recently popped a bottle of the 18 for the staff to revisit, hoping to share a little passion with my co-workers. Man, that is some fantastic juice. It's so delicate and nuanced that I'm positive there are folks out there who can't decide whether it's amazing or totally boring. The soft, almost dainty fruit; the smidge of peat smoke on the finish. You can sip Oban 18 slowly, pour the whisky over your tongue, and really ponder each layer, or you could just pound glasses of it—one after the other! I plowed through two small glasses in two minutes. That stuff just goes right down. In my opinion, it's right there with the Glenmorangie 18 for best bang-for-your-buck bottle in the store (although it might be the sole owner of that title once the Glenmo takes a price hike this year).

Considering the minute output of little Oban distillery, and the pride with which the staff makes its whisky (those folks are among the nicest I've met in Scotland), I'm really interested in getting my hands on the new Oban Little Bay when it hits our shelf later this month. I've got Oban on my mind right now. I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more Oban.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll