Oban Distillery


History: This distillery was established in 1794, making it one of the oldest in Scotland and one of a very few urban distilleries in the country. The establishment was founded by two brothers from Oban – John and Hugh Stevenson – who took over a brewery on the site and converted it into a distillery.The distillery was and still is incredibly influential on the town itself, as it was a major source of industry although fewer people work there as would have done in the past due to modern methods of creating single malt. The Stevenson family ran the distillery until around 1860. A few other owners followed, then in 1898, Alexander Edwards took the helm of the operation, and later a consortium made up of whisky giants John Dewar & Sons, James Buchanan & Company and White Horse Distillers became involved in the running of the distillery. This company would eventually become global drinks giants Diageo, who still own the distillery today.

The whisky: This is a classic maritime malt in profile, packed with fruity flavours and a hint of sweet smoke. There isn't a huge range here, they prefer to focus on real quality with fewer releases. Among whisky geeks this is one brand that is always sought out. If you ever get the opportunity to try one of their very rare “Manager’s Dram” collection then take it. This incredibly rare collection includes a bicentenary bottling of a 16-year-old sherry cask, which by all accounts is a life-changing whisky when you try it.

Favourite dram: Some folks are not fans of non-age statement whiskies but one try of the Oban Little Bay will change your mind. It has lovely deep fruit flavours with a touch of spice and heather honey, priced at round £58.

Geek alert: This distillery is not one the biggest; in fact it’s the second smallest in the company’s portfolio of around 30 distilleries. It is also one of around 14 distilleries to use worm tubs to condense its spirit. This old but prized method is sought after by some whisky lovers due to the robust flavour achieved during the process.

Why visit? Oban is a unique distillery, perched on the western edge of the Scottish mainland at the very top of the Kintyre peninsula. I have a soft spot for distilleries that are located right in the centre of towns, such as Old Pulteney up in Wick. It somehow feels more real to me that they were once the main industry of the town and its people. In fact the distillery actually predates the town of Oban itself. The visitor centre and tour is a great place to spend some time while you are in Oban but it is definitely worth calling ahead to book your tour as they fill up quickly.

Interesting fact: Oban single malt was part of Diageo’s original and sought-after series of six “classic malts”, together with Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin and Talisker. This series was first released to great acclaim in 1988. In 2005 other Diageo distilleries were added to the range of “classic malts”: Caol Ila, Cardhu, Clynelish, Glen Elgin, Glen Ord, Knockando and Royal Lochnagar.

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