Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Scotland, Day 2

After finally getting some of sleep, day two in Scotland seemed a bit more civilized. Following breakfast, we caught the 11:00 tour at the Oban distillery, just a short walk from the B&B we had stayed in. Sadly, they didn’t allow photography anywhere in the distillery, so I only have a picture of the outside of the building and a few inside their shop (which sells some hard to get, high end singles malts from their parent company Diageo).

The tour started off seeming sort of mundane, but as we asked questions along the way, we got some interesting details from the guide. One example is the fact that Oban lets the fermentation process go on for four days, where most other distillers stop it after 2 or three days. This produces a higher alcohol wash (the fermented liquid) of 9.5% abv, where most others are around 8% to 8.5%. They also claim that this longer fermentation time is responsible for the fruity-orange flavor that Oban is known for.

Oban only has two commonly available official bottlings, a 14yr which is aged exclusively in 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrels (meaning they originally held bourbon first, then they were re-used for single malt from another distillery, then they are re-used again for Oban. After that, Oban sells the barrels on to other distilleries to be used once more.) The other is the Distiller’s Edition, which is the 14yr that has been aged an additional 8 months in European oak Sherry casks. At the end of the tour we were taken into the cask filling room where we got a special treat – a sample of 12yr cask strength Oban drawn straight from the barrel. After that we moved on to the tasting room for a dram of the standard 14yr. We were then informed of a special bottling exclusive to the distillery. It was at cask strength with no age statement, but they claimed it was mostly 14yr with some older Oban mixed in, and possibly some variety of cask types. Being a lover of Oban single malt, my father decided to take one of those home, I’m looking forward to trying it.

We got in some sightseeing and lunch, then took the Ferry over to the isle of Mull. It was a very scenic ride with nice views of Ben Nevis (the mountain, not the distillery), then we drove across the island to Tobermory (the town, we visit the distillery tomorrow). It’s a stunning drive along the inland coast of the island, in all its rural glory, with a two way single track road, slowly crossed by sheep while you wait.

A spot of dinner to sample to local seafood, then out to the pub for more scotch. I got caught up in conversation with a colorful local character, so not many details on what I drank at Macgochan’s, but I did sample the 15yr Tobermory, a Glen Grant that I never found out the age of, and Glencoe 8yr single malt at cask strength (58% abv). All quite enjoyable, but very different from each other in style.

The single malt collection at Macgonchan’s made the selection at Cuan Mor the night before look unimpressive by comparison. The later had about 34 bottles, with a few being Distiller’s Edition’s and a few others higher up the age scale, but most were the run of the mill flagship offerings from well known distilleries. Macgochan’s on the other hand had upwards of 60 bottles, with several from closed distilleries, many obscure brands, some uncommon variations of well known brands, and a couple of cask strength bottlings. I could drink in there every night for a week and find something I was excited to try every time.

Finally, back to the B&B, which has the wonderful feature of complimentary single malt Scotch, for one last drink before bed. Now I’m sipping on the 10yr Tobermory (un-chillfiltered at 46.3 abv). It’s a little malty (and maybe slightly herbal) on the nose and quite full bodied. It is mild up front, but picks up flavor intensity quickly from the mid palate through the finish. It has a nice mix of malty flavors, mixed with floral notes, but they seem to be on the spicy and of the floral range as opposed to the perfume like floral flavors that I have an aversion to. I get a little more flavor late in the finish, it could be subtle oak notes, or a very minimal peat influence, hard to tell.

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