It seems that the current trend for established distilleries to add whiskies of unspecified age continues apace. June saw a re-arranging of the Glen Scotia range, with three age statement malts being dropped and two new non-age whiskies replacing them. Now Oban is the latest to join in the fun. Little Bay will be available very soon, and it was on tasting at Whisky Fringe 2015.
Obviously a whisky festival isn't the best place to get to know a new dram, but I scribbled my notes and then discussed the whisky with a couple of other folk, and there did seem to be a fairly solid consensus. Our conclusion: meh.
It's not a bad whisky, in fact it's fairly decent, and bears a family resemblance to the 14 Year Old. On the nose I found salty-sweet caramel, and a gristy (youthful?) and heathery note. The palate was initially fruity (grapefruit, perhaps), and then very sweet, and somewhat earthy and woody.
But it's certainly no better than the 14. I was told by Diageo's personable young brand ambassador that the whisky is vatted from a selection of normal casks before being being put to quarter casks for a second maturation. Well, I'm pretty positive that they're not fresh quarter casks.
All in all, it's hard to be enthusiastic about a new release which isn't any better than the existing product, which meets a producer's need, rather than any burning desire the consumer might have for new and different malts. So, Oban Little Bay, meh.