Hard to believe I've never reviewed an Oban before, since it's one of Diageo's well-known Classic Malts (according to them, anyway). One of Scotland's oldest distilleries, it was established in 1794 in the town of Oban, which has grown in population around the distillery (preventing distillery expansion beyond its 700,000 lpa from small stills). Unlike many Scottish single malt distilleries, it has never ceased production.
Apparently the word Oban is Gaelic for "little bay", so I guess this bottle is really called Oban Oban? Non-age-statement, it is apparently distilled in small batches and matured in small casks. Small distillery, small stills, small batch, small casks. Little Bay, indeed.
The colour is a light-to-medium gold. The first hit I get on the nose is toffee, but following that there are saltines, strawberry, blood orange, macadamia and soft vanilla. Dried fruits such as apricot and mango; gets more citrusy with time. Rich, old-fashioned maltiness. Briny and slightly peaty with water. Noses surprisingly "old" for an NAS malt. Very complex, beautifully done.
More toffee on the palate with salted mixed nuts, strawberry (again), green apple, cinnamon and cloves. Modest spice (could use more). Slightly oily. The flavour really explodes with water, getting maltier, spicier and oakier. Delicious and mouth-watering, and very approachable.
The dry finish has a touch of oak with gentle spices, blackberries and pressed apple juice. One of the best of the newer NAS single malt scotches you will find. Extremely complex (how can it by oily and mouth-drying at the same time?) and full of fruit, spice and that brininess you get from coastal malts. Lacks the rich body of the 14 Year Old but regardless, this is very rewarding. Geoffrey Kleinman scored this a 92 in Whisky Advocate.