I didn’t partake in the monotony of New Year resolutions that only exist to be broken or swept under the carpet come February. However, regulars who have followed the artist formerly known as Whisky Rover will realise, I do like to utter some self decrees when it comes to whisky.

I’m not going to reveal all, but I do want to focus on a few more specific independent bottlers – and we’ve started this already with Chorlton Whisky and Malt Affair – and still, find that enjoyable Bruichladdich or Jura. In terms of the former distillery, a tasting later this year should finally, hopefully, reveal something worthwhile. Or cement my opinion that some things shouldn’t be revived only to suffer a prolonged fate, or become suffocated in branding. Still, we did come close with that wonderful Moon Import 1983 Bruichladdich but we’ll scratch that bottle as you’re unlikely to find it anywhere.

Fingers crossed for that whisky moment, my other thought or plan for 2019 is to return to many of the whiskies that started me out on my journey several years ago now. When you break free of the initial blends or the fairly tepid stuff such as Balvenie, Dalwhinnie, Glenfiddich etc. and begin your own voyage of discovery. Fond memories looking back now and many mistakes were made via purchases. I’m sure I’m not alone and we all don’t achieve experience and knowledge without acquiring information and experiences. Good or bad, tasteful or tasteless. Whisky and its appreciation are all of these things and much more besides.

You won’t find your own journey in a book or on a social media influencer channel. That’s the beauty of it in reality. The direction you take is purely in your hands and given the opportunity, I’ve always preferred unbeaten and more difficult terrain. Let your senses and inspiration lead you to new discoveries with a free reign and open heart.

I’ve stated previously that the Highlands are my favourite whisky region. There is no other region quite like it, one that has the diversity and landscape of Scotland. An expansive wilderness that contains Oban, Dornoch, Balblair, Clynelish and the great one known as Brora. Ok, we have the fake tan emporium in Dalmore and the golfers paradise in Glenmorangie, but these exist to remind us how whisky shouldn’t be made, packaged and marketed. Alongside Campbeltown, it is here in my mind you’ll find the real whiskies of interest. My personal opinion of course, and certainly not a fashionable outlook with all things Islay, but then you get wise.

The fact we still have an Oban distillery should be acknowledged and celebrated. With the passage of time the distillery has become engulfed by the town and this has often meant the end of several distilleries including Rosebank. The difficulty of access and no room to expand often meant the accountants chopped distilleries with little thought in the early 1980s. Gone with the stroke of a pen or large word proceeding keyboard.

A distillery was often the heart of the local community. Providing reliable employment and a possible career. A prosperous industry with fringe benefits such as the odd dram from a cask and a few extra bundles of peat. Much more preferable to working the land or in a dangerous environment such as a factory. Oban itself since its inception in 1794 has remained relatively unscathed. The most destruction – or in modern terminology improvements – came in 1968 when the distillery was closed for 4 years for such works. Despite this, it remains one of Diageo’s smallest distilleries and goes some way to explaining why Oban lacks an expansive range or more visibility in the single malt market.

You can purchase this Oban whisky online for £44.99 from Amazon, or London’s most dynamic seller the Whisky Exchange for £50.25. Or shop around including Master of Malt for £45.90 and remember to support your local independent retailer. Rose drags herself away from climbing trees, armed with bottles, to offer her thoughts on the Oban 14, which for both of us was a whisky that featured early in our respective whisky journeys.

Oban 14 year old – Jason’s review

Colour: E150 colouring.

On the nose: Very fruity with elements of ginger. Pulped apples and pears (sorry) followed by orange peel and a little candle wax? Mustard seeds, fresh fennel, peaches and toffee. A used eraser with a delicate tar and liquorice root.

In the mouth: Drinkable, very much so although a little flat in all honesty. More waxed orange, honeycomb, ginger and green bananas. A raspberry jam and a chalky finish with tangerines and plasticine. Water showcases dried cranberries and a delicate wet earth feature. Time in the glass does hint at promise with an improved mouthfeel.

Score: 4/10

Jason’s Conclusions

Solid-ish and drinkable – features that you welcome in any approachable whisky. I’m left questioning what could be, however? A touch flat and overpriced, even if it is the only distillery in Oban, which is an element of what you’re paying for. A little overpriced in reality and as for the lavish use of colouring – come on Diageo!

Where Oban does come into its own, is as a gateway to other whiskies. Enjoy this, appreciate this, and it’ll entice you to move further into the Highlands. To the glory of Ben Nevis or further north to the Isle of Skye and Talisker, or maybe east towards the joys of Balblair. Personally, I’m glad I’ve returned to frequent its wares once again. Solid if unexceptional, a distillery that could do better given the opportunity.

Oban 14 year old – Rose’s review

Color: Glowing Caramel.

On the nose: Black licorice and fennel overtake my senses. There’s also that liqueur that has the same hideous stench! What is it? I had to look it up… Sambuca, yuck! Okay, trying to move past that. Ginger sticky toffee pudding cake topped with salted hazelnuts, candied orange peel dipped in milk chocolate. Something like sidewalk chalk on dewy cement. Then a mild perfumy scent like dried roses and melted hot glue dripping from a hot glue gun.

In the mouth: Leads with vanilla extract and burnt marshmallows. The licorice type flavors are still dominant, eww. Rose water, freshly peeled ginger, cracked white peppercorns with another hint of hot glue. The finish is quite zesty and bitter like Chinese medicinal herbs, maybe some ginseng, astragalus and yep, licorice root.

Score: 3/10

Rose’s Conclusions

This bottle of Oban 14 is a whisky that I purchased early on in my scotch drinking days. The bottle is just now, almost empty a few years later, I guess that says it all. It’s definitely an easy drinking whisky so long as you don’t mind licorice. Obviously for me, its a real turn off. I recently shopped for a second bottle for the sake of taking pictures and was quite honestly shocked by the price of $70 at a few different retailers. I ended up finding it for a much more reasonable price at Costco at around $50. So I bought it and decided to gift it to a friend that might appreciate this flavor profile more than I do. The score may have been a 4/10 if I could find this whisky regularly priced at $50.

Photographs kindly provided by From Where I Dram. We do have commission links within this piece if you feel the need to purchase. As always these never influence our opinion.

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    1. Avatar
      Andihotpants says:

      I just feel sad about this. I have a soft spot for Oban, having visited it and enjoyed the town. But I’m afraid you’re right. I wonder what difference it would make if it were non chill filtered.
      As a beginner, you start in the supermarket. Those whiskies, in London supermarkets, really are poor. I’ve been to supermarkets in Scotland, and I’m surprised by how much is available on the shelves. But Oban 14 should be a step up from these whiskies, alas it isn’t. If only there was an independent to compare too, alas there aren’t any……

      1. Jason
        Jason says:

        Hi AHP, yeah this is the problem we’re now seeing with some Diageo distilleries and those that deny the independents or do teaspooning such as Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Glenmorangie. The brand is everything alongside control. They control the message and the whisky. Regardless if the said whisky is watered down to 40%, layered in E150a and so on. Influencers are easily bought and programmed to back up the message.

        Long term, I believe, they are doing themselves a disservice as the market and experience within continues to evolve. Soon you move on and don’t go back. Hence partially why we picked out a couple of these more prominent early whiskies to revisit.

  1. Avatar
    NOTNICE_75 says:

    “You won’t find your own journey in a book or on a social media influencer channel.”

    Here’s a statement I can certainly agree with! Our journeys will diverge and converge, narrowing, widening, the low road and the the high road…and this is well and good and is the natural order of things. For what it’s worth, my own journey began with persistent bouts of bronchitis as a child in the 1970s in the north of England and the south of Scotland, which malady was treated by my maternal grandmother with teaspoons of some strong peaty whisky. After that, a few years on, a rogue uncle moved in next door with a bottle-a-week Grouse habit. I bought my first bottle of single malt in 1994 or 1995 – almost certain it was a bottle of Tobermory.

    In the intervening years I’ve been fortunate enough to drink hundreds and hundreds of malts, from the “fairly tepid stuff such as Balvenie, Dalwhinnie, Glenfiddich”, through the vanishingly rare, the Kinclaiths and Glen Flaglers and so on. And this is perhaps where we diverge to some extent, because while I’m certainly partial to cask strength bottlings presented in natural colour, and while I have no time for marketing nonsense and generally prefer independent releases, I feel that there’s a growing tendency to unfairly dismiss some of the more conventional (i.e., “tepid”) brands like those mentioned above. Perhaps it’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt. For sure, not every standard whisky bottling is going to set your world on fire, but by the same token, I’ve tasted plenty of distinctly average Braevals or Glen Keiths…and even the aforementioned Kinclaith. It goes without saying that we all have different tastes and that one man’s trash might be another’s treasure. For example, I rather enjoyed the “Allta”…quite a lot actually. The journey is your own. I just hope that we can continue to offer fair assessments of everyday whiskies regardless the devious machinations of the parent companies and their silly sales pitches.

    Having said all of this, I’m with you 100% on the Oban.

    Cheers Jason!

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi NN75

      Lots of good memories and points there!

      This is partially why I’ve gone back to this Oban and we’ll have the Glenfiddich 12 very soon. After that, I want to pick out a few more to re-experience and see how things pan out today.

      Also, we have to acknowledge that it’s just an opinion and personal taste. If you’re enjoying what’s in front of you, then fantastic. Hopefully, I’ll find some real surprises and gems soon as it feels long overdue sometimes.

      Cheers, Jason.

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