Can you believe it’s taken a decade for me to get ’round to putting up tasting notes for Oban 14? I carried this one like an albatross for a long time, but I suppose it’s about time for this mariner to shed the dead bird and get on with things, aye?
Oban 14 was one of the earliest malts I remember really sinking my teeth into. And there’s a reason it resonates strongly with me. I moved out of my folks’ place when I was quite young. My dad took yet another work transfer and, at 17, I was stubbornly unwilling to leave my girlfriend and uproot for the umpteenth time in my life. So…I got a job and stayed behind when the fam moved on to…browner pastures. As was probably the case for many of you out there, job number one for me was in a kitchen. I was good at multitasking and good at cooking, but I was also good with people. Fortunately, management saw this and allowed me to start slinging drinks and serving tables instead. I think it was partly in recognition of an untapped resource, but also an empathetic response to them knowing how hard I was struggling to finish high school while working enough hours to cover rent. Either way…they broke the rules and let me bartend underage. This concession, of course, drastically altered my income. There were also…errr…romantic perks. (Enough, boy, enough.)
At the end of the night, when the place had emptied out and the doors were locked, management would take off into the back to finish cashing out, and we front-of-the-house folks would slam a quick pint and sample the whisky behind the bar. Oban 14 was one of the first to really jump out at me.
I’ve revisited a few times since those early days, but not nearly often enough. And now, with a glass in hand, I really do feel like I’ve sold myself short. This is a much more elegant and rounded malt than I recall. I’m digging it now more than I ever have in the past.
Nose: Somewhat delicate, but with a big personality, if that makes sense. Quite beautifully fruity, with some nice orange and grapefruit notes topping out first. Kiwi and kumquat. A faint peaty prickle and loads of saline sea breeze. A bit of pepper. Leather. Stewing fruits.
Palate: More peat now. In fact, it arrives first. Milk chocolate and cinnamon/nutmeg-esque spices. A bit of wet, smoky grist. A really cool orange-y tang on the mid-palate. Honey in green tea. Nice thin notes of smoke throughout. A bit drying, with a brilliant grapefruit candy note that teases an appearance in all-too-brief moments.
Finish: Surprisingly long. Leaves some neat fruit skin notes and very clean oak. I love that the barley still shines through.
Thoughts: A real shame about the anemic bottling strength, but I recognize this may not be targeted for the purist. Truly a pleasant revisit. I can’t lie: I’m kinda crushing on this malt right now.
87/100 (Though at 46% or higher, I think we’d be nudging closer to 90%)