Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review - Oban 'Little Bay'

This is a new expression for the core range single malt range of Oban. The whisky is so named because Oban translates as 'little bay' from Gaelic and it has been created by two of Diageo's Master Blenders, Dr Matthew Crow and Dr Craig Wilson. They have used a range of different ages of whisky, which have been matured in three types of casks - European oak ex-sherry casks, re-fill casks with new oak cask ends and re-fill American oak hogsheads. These have then been combined and married in small oak casks for a short period of time to allow integration of flavours.

Oban is located on the west coast of Scotland and is named after the town of the same name.  Oban is the main hub for ferries traveling to the Hebridean islands and the town has grown up around the distillery, which was founded in 1794 by Hugh and John Stevenson.  The buildings were originally a brewery and the distillery is one of just a few remaining in Scotland that were founded in the 18th century.  It is currently owned by Diageo and the popular 14 years old expression is one of the six whiskies in their Classic Malts series.  It is one of the smallest distilleries in Diageo's Scotch portfolio with an annual production capacity of 870,000 litres.

The Little Bay is currently only available in the USA, although wider global distribution is planned for later in 2015. It is bottled at 43% ABV and has a recommended retail price of $75.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is vibrant and fresh.  There are immediate aromas of gingerbread and dried fruits (think of raisins and candied orange peel especially).  These are joined by further aromas of fresh green apple, honeycomb and wood spices (imagine cinnamon in particular).  Hints of malted barley, vanilla and cocoa are also evident.

On the palate this is again vibrant and fresh with the green apple note instantly hitting the taste buds.  This has a slightly tart, yet delicious and mouth watering quality.  Sweeter notes follow quickly with the honey and vanilla particularly prominent.  The combination is reminiscent of toffee apples.  Dried fruits then follow and mix with a distinct malty barley note to give a fruit cake-like feeling.  There are raisins, sultanas and candied orange peel in evidence.  The orange note seems to linger and join background hints of earthy ginger, liquorice and a slight saltiness.  This serves to add to the mouth watering nature of the whisky.

The finish is reasonably short as the sweet and fruity notes disappear to leave the earthy ginger and malted barley notes to fade more slowly, along with the warming wood spices.  The malt in particular hangs around.

What's the verdict?
This is a very enjoyable and easy drinking whisky, and one that should help introduce Oban to a wider audience.  The delicious fresh and vibrant characteristics make this a bracing drink and one that makes you want to reach for another sip.  It is very nice and we would not hesitate to recommend it for a whisky beginner or keen enthusiast. 

Although Oban is relatively small, they are currently running at the biggest capacity in the distillery's history.  Expansion is limited as it is located in the centre of the town.  Therefore Little Bay will help deal with the demand for Oban's whisky, while taking some of the strain off the older 14 year old and Distiller's Edition expressions.


svChameleon said...

Wow. Were you a wine reviewer. Cannot find the cinnamon or apple but got the liquorice. A powerful dram and we are enjoying a distinct flavour change from Belvenie

German said...

Very good. Maybe too expensive for a NAS