Whisky Review: 2021 Oban The Distillers Edition

, | July 3, 2022

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Diageo. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

In movies a good director’s cut accomplishes a couple of things. You get a bit more of what you love, maybe a surprise or two, and maybe some more character development that wasn’t in the original. This applies to a good distiller’s edition as well. This review is one of several reviews looking at the 2021 Classic Malts Distillers Editions from Diageo, click here for the other reviews in this series. Everything in this product line starts by being aged in a barrel that is re-charred American oak with “crocodile-skin” charred new American oak ends. Then each distillery uses a different style of fortified wine to finish their spirit.

Founded in 1794, Oban distillery is one of the few urban Scotch distilleries still in operation. It is located in the city of Oban on the West coast of Scotland. The distillery was privately owned until 1898 where it began changing hands between whisky groups quite regularly until 1989, when it was acquired by Diageo. In all of this time the distillery was only closed for about ten years, once due to the state of the economy and a second time due to remodeling. 

Oban produces about 670,000 liters per year through a single 12,600 liter wash still and a single 7,200 liter spirit still. This makes it the second smallest Scotch distillery owned by Diageo. It is one of the few still using traditional outdoor worm tubs in production. Oban’s flagship product is their 14-year-old single malt. With their limited production it is rare to see Oban used outside of this. Whisky.com states there are only three known independent bottlings of Oban. They do occasionally appear in very small quantities in blended whiskies as well.

For Oban’s The Distillers Edition they do a second maturation in Montilla Fino sherry casks. The use of both Montilla and sherry in the cask type is a bit confusing. Montilla implies the Montilla-Moriles region that cannot legally be called sherry, even though it follows the same process and uses the same naming system for styles. Sherry is a denomination of origin protected by the European Union. Regardless of the use of the word sherry it is a Fino in style, which means it is a dry pale style of fortified wine. It ages entirely under flor, a layer of yeast, preventing oxidation of the wine. Fino tends to have a flavor profile with yeast, salt, and herbs. A choice that shifts Oban more toward the flavors of the islands than the highlands. 

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Now, I will preface my tasting that I am a bit biased with Oban. I have often found Oban to be mediocre. There is nothing wrong with it, its flavor profile just hits a balance a bit too well for me that causes me to seek out other whiskies when I want a certain flavor profile. If I want peat I go more for an Islay whisky. If I want something sweet, I go for something like Dalmore. If I want that maritime flavor, I look to Old Pulteney or Talisker. That being said, I recognize that Oban is enjoyed by many for that exact balance that makes me pass it up.

2021 Oban Distillers Edition (image via Malts.com)

2021 Oban The Distillers Edition (image via Malts.com)

Tasting Notes: 2021 Oban The Distillers Edition

Vital Stats: 43% ABV. Distilled in 2007 and bottled in 2021. Double matured in American oak and ex-Montilla Fino sherry casks.

Appearance: This is a golden honey color. This has thin long legs that take their time to form.

Nose: First thing I get on the nose is honey, raisin, and cinnamon. Sitting with it longer I get the smell of green apple and a bit of acetone.

Palate: The nose really carries over to the front of the palate with those same notes of honey, raisin, and cinnamon. The middle gets a little meatier with a slight salinity, certainly the kind of Scotch I want to chew on. The finish is light and long with a good amount of heat and black pepper. The addition of water shifts the front palate to more of a floral quality, the honey more of a honeysuckle. The transition from the front of the palate to the finish seems shorter but had something a touch medicinal. The finish is still just as light but sweeter notes of honeyed pastry compliment the black pepper. 

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This is one that I wouldn’t turn down a pour of, but I certainly wouldn’t be choosing it for myself. Like I said above, there are just other whiskies I’d prefer for the different flavors I am after here. If you are a fan of Oban, I certainly suggest trying this. It pushes itself a bit out of the balance that their 14-year-old single malt has and gives just a little more of the maritime flavors. 

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