Among the Special Releases of two years ago, this 21-year-old had aroused a lot of interest because Oban is not a distillery that is easily found, apart from the very popular 14-year-old and the recent Little Bay. In fact, there is no real core range and independent bottlings are more than very rare. You can therefore imagine our curiosity in front of this assembly of only “Refill European Oak Butts”. But how did it last two years in our sample cabinet?!
N: alcohol is very well integrated, in a compound profile and quite closed, not to say sharp. To emerge on the first is in fact the coastal note, brackish, of stone salted in the sun. Seed oil. Serge finds many hints of yeast and remains bewildered and irritated, we do not mind this nudity. A blade of peat is clearly perceived, not of smoke but of mineral earthiness, of dry grass. The barrels have not yielded a great vinosity, but rather a bouquet of dehydrated fruit, between raisins and apricot. Raw shortcrust pastry and yellow apples. Here and there orange peel and something mentholated to give freshness. Everything arrives very gracefully even if the high alcohol content is a vector of great intensity.
P: the abv is there to be felt, and helps to make this malt even sharper than on the nose. It remains sapid and coastal, and an almost totalizing herbaceous note explodes here. Various seeds and roots. The profile is both green and slightly dirty, with a touch of earthy peat. Camphor. Here you can hear very little sherry and probably blindly it would be impossible to guess. Liquid sugar, little vanilla and a vague memory of dehydrated apricots..
F: ultra clean, herbal, salty. Really extreme in its simplicity.
A truly astounding Oban, absolutely not fashionable, with a profile that seems more like an independent bottler’s crazy gamble than the choice of a powerhouse like Diageo who, being the owner of the distillery, had thousands of barrels available to calibrate the blend. Nevertheless, we must confess that we do not mind this subtractive and austere style; it is one of a thousand faces that can take on whisky, adding charm and complexity to a distillate that never ceases to amaze: 87/100. Available, among others, on Aquavitae.
Recommended soundtrack: Chopin – Nocturne in B Flat Minor, Op. 9 No. 1: “A Madame Camille Pleyel”