Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Oban - 14 year old - Review

Whilst planning, and looking forward to, a recent holiday to Paris I had the best of intentions to seek out many unheard of French whiskies, and alike, whilst making my way around the little back street bars and cafes, but the allure of local red wine and continental beers, along with a disappointing lack of selection in the bars I visited, meant that as the holiday drew to a close I found myself having not had one single glass of whisky.....this disaster had to be averted.

One opportunity had arose when I was contacted by Donal Loughney, an Irishman, now living in France, who invited me to his bar to sample one, or many, of his massive collection of Irish whiskies, of which he states is the largest selection in the world, but unfortunately time was not on my side and I could not make the journey across town which only frustrated me further in my search for a good dram. (Incidentally the bar in question was "Patricks Le Ballon Vert" located at 33, rue de Montreuil, Paris and which is also a recent nominee in the Irish Whisky Awards 2014 - International Whiskey Bar category)

Still determined to try something new, of the single malt (or grain) variety, my girlfriend and I found ourselves in a fantastic wee literary bar, deep in the Marais area of Paris, named "La Belle Hortense".  

The delightful "La Belle Hortense"
Bursting at the seams with charm and charisma this little place was the perfect location to unwind and relax with a glass of the good stuff.

Looking across the shelves I noticed a lot of recognisable bottles and a lot that I had tried before, certainly no French whiskies in here, but thankfully I spotted a bottle containing a dram I had not yet sampled........Oban 14 year old.

From knowledge I knew that this was a west coast distillery that belongs to the enormous Highlands region and with a little more research I discovered that the distillery was founded in 1794 and has only two stills making it one of the smallest in Scotland.

Oban is currently owned by the beast that is Diageo and is best known for this 14 year old bottling which was first released in 1988.  They also have an 18 year old and a 32 year old release which I can only imagine requires a small mortgage to purchase.

Reading that this distillery benefits from a "West Highland flavour that falls between the dry, smoky style of the Scottish islands and the lighter, sweeter malts of the Highlands" made me quite happy indeed as I am increasingly finding great enjoyment in Highland and Island drams.

Onto my notes (which were quickly recorded on a mobile notepad app) -

Nose - Honeyed citrus and red apple which gives way to a distinct classic, coastal, salty note with obvious hints of fresh cut grass and some light buttered peat smoke.  Certainly seems to back up it's suggested flavour profile and is definitely enjoyable.  As this sits in the glass it holds it structure well and doesn't fall away like others which I personally would put down to a good character of spirit and a slightly stronger strength at 43% ABV.

Palate - WOW, without water this is truly a feisty beast that needs a little taming.  With some H2O the arrival is very measured with a fine balance of sweet malt and fresh fruits of which orange and red apple dominate.  Chilli pepper also has it's say throughout and at times still feels a tad overbearing (more water maybe?), and towards the end some soft oak wood shows itself.

Finish - Longish with a emphasis on pepper and more apple.

Overall I feel that this is a decent malt that has some depth but it needs a lot of time, patience and experience to get the most out of the glass.  In comparison it reminds me a little of the Caperdonich I reviewed back in June.  I think I'll be back to give this some more serious attention at a later date.

Well there you go, a malt review and a super quick snapshot of what Paris can offer.  Whilst disappointed not to get to try some local whisky, or visit Patricks Le Ballon Vert, I hope to return to Paris very soon and satisfy both these urges.

Onwards and as we move rapidly towards October I shall be back soon with a close look at the up-and-coming "Whisky Live - Dublin" which takes place on Saturday 25th October and is a must for all Irish whiskey fans.

Until next time,



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