Sherry Element – Oban 15 year (2015) Fino Cask 43%

First up in our “Sherry Element” evening was Oban… yes Oban… with a Montilla Fino finish.

Our original club kept to its preferred tasting approach of sampling completely blind. In this case, the reveal waited until the very end after sampling all three whiskies.

Oban 15 year (2000/2015) 43% Bourbon / Fino cask Special Release OD 164.FA Limited Edition

  • Nose
    • Before tasting – Immediate brush of bourbon, super overripe bananas, coconut, fruits, very sweet… then began to take on a musty clothes quality like after the rains…. a shift into a medicinal element, paan, then watermelon, steamed rice shifting into biscuits – Crackerjack salty then mangaram sweet wafer, cereals
    • After tasting – Lemon fruit base, then plasticine… somehow it lost its distinctness
  • Palate – Spice, clove, sweet and yet also very bitter with that medicinal quality on the nose following through on the palate, neem leaf, has a certain intensity yet overall quite a light body
  • Finish – Short with a bitter edge
  • Water – Kills the nose, kicks up the spice on the palate and also dampens the bitterness, however one found it reduced it to ‘pure alcohol’… would not recommend adding water

For the most part, colour isn’t a primary focus of our tastings… more as one facet to consider. Yet speculation was rife from the outset that surely this could not be natural… I do believe one comment went along the lines of “Has an almost yellow shine like its on steroids.”

The aroma came on with a decent strength initially, then quickly dropped and became muted. As for its character? We found it quite straight in, straight out. Young, sweet and largely remains on the front of the tongue, with a bitterness on the sides.

And when we revisited after nearly an hour?

Discovered it made it much more approachable, hardly any bitterness remained and oddly came across as almost oily. Alas all the aromas we found earlier were elusive. Yet overall with extra air it became quite drinkable.

With the reveal there was surprise. There were certainly a few who have fond memories of Oban 14 year as being reliable bar stock.

Even our host admitted to being a tad disappointed… as clearly had expected more… and yet the revisit certainly showed it is not too shabby after all.

Here’s what the folks over at Oban have to say about this Distillers Edition on the label:

The Western Highland style of Malt is epitomized by Oban’s gentle sweetness and surprising richness of palate and finish. The pettiness of the Islands it faces across the Firth of Lorn is softened by the influences of the Highlands at its back. To underline its sea-laced flavours, Oban’s Master Distiller has chosen Montilla Fino. This dry, delicate cask-wood beautifully enhances Oban’s distinctively graceful style.

What did we sample in our “Sherry Elements” evening?

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Sherry Elements – Oban, Amrut, Kilkerran

As a whisky tasting group, we’ve sampled many a sherry matured cask over the years.. however we have not had an evening dedicated to different elements of sherry… until one fine evening in November 2017.

What did we sample?

And what made each of these distinctive?

1st off the Oban was not your standard familiar friend – the 14 year – no siree! It was instead a 15 year limited edition initially matured in an ex-bourcon cask then a Montilla Fino Cask.

Next up was an Amrut Intermediate Sherry purchased some 7 odd years ago and carefully kept. Again a combination of bourbon and sherry… with quite a complex and different character than the Oban.

And the Kilkerran? The Campbeltown offering was again Sherry wood… with a peaty element too.

None were full force sherry, each had a unique dimension, making our evening a most enjoyable exploration. All had been carefully collected over years by our host… none can be readily obtained today… of if you do, likely not quite the same as what we sampled.

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Oban Little Bay 43%

One of the things we appreciate most about our original whisky tasting group is our approach of sampling blind. It frees us from preconceived notions – including previous experience with a particular whisky or distillery.

Which enabled all of us to take a fresh look at Oban and explore their NAS expression Little Bay.

Oban Little Bay 43%

  • Nose – Panchgani honey… which then slipped away as other elements like cereal or biscuits, citrus, quite appealing on the nose though a bit rough, cherry, a light hint of rose, the skin of raw mango, a bouquet of fruit and flowers. After sipping, dry coconut, walnuts, a bit musty
  • Palate – Bitter spice, a hint of peat, dry, a lather of lemon soap, wet rice before grinding for dosas, became increasingly bitter
  • Finish – Short, a bit of spice at the front

As we considered the whisky, it was clear the nose was its strongest point, followed by the taste yet the finish was the most disappointing element.

Most amusing, one of our members admitted has has this whisky at home, enjoyed recently though not with the focused attention of our sessions. For many, the Oban 14 year is familiar friend yet we didn’t make the connect with Little Bay.

Oban Little Bay is matured in refill American oak hogsheads, European oak Sherry casks and refill casks with new ends then “married” in small oak casks.

Overall what did we think? Our conclusion was this would be great as a party whisky – reasonably priced, appealing nose, easy to drink. While its no Oban 14, its not something you would be embarrassed to share on a sociable evening.

What do the Diageo folks have to say about Oban Little Bay?

  • Nose – Oily, waxy and nutty, balanced by ripe orchard fruits. Notes of almond fruit cake on denser Christmas pudding, with cereal and orange behind.
  • Palate – The comforting chewiness of rich fruit-bread, hints of orange zest and clove, growing drier, still minty, with crisp green apple.
  • Finish – In a word, long. Quite syrupy at first, then drying, with elegant coating tannins rich in dark chocolate character.

What else did we try in our NAS evening?

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