The town of Oban, also known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, lies on Scotland’s west coast.
According to the labels on some of Oban Bottlings, the first settlers arrived by sea in 5000 BC, making their homes in caves in the Cliffside.
The two Stevenson brothers John and Hugh settled in Oban in 1778 when the town was little more than a fishing village. The distillery was built in 1794 by Hugh Stevenson together with some partners and the town soon grew around it. In 1822 Hugh’s son Thomas Stevenson became the distillery manager and purchased the other owners’ shares. Thomas went bankrupt in 1829 but his oldest son, John, managed to keep the company in the family.
The distillery was sold to Peter Cumstie in 1866 and remained in his care until 1883 when it was bought by Walter Higgins. Higgins renovated the distillery in 1890 and made extensive improvements to both inventories and buildings. The work involved cutting into the cliff behind the distillery, which revealed a cave with human bones and implements. The findings are now on display at the Scottish Museum of Antiquity.
Higgins sold the distillery in 1898 to a group of investors; among them Alexander Edward which was the owner of Aultmore Distillery, and thus the Oban & Aultmore Distilleries Ltd. was formed. The Oban Distillery Company Ltd was formed in 1923 when the Aultmore Distillery was sold to John Dewar & Sons. The Oban Distillery Ltd. was acquired by the Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. in 1930 and was mothballed between 1931 and 1937 due to WW2.
The location of the distillery prevented further expansion due to limited space and production decreased gradually until 1969 when the distillery was mothballed. Production resumed in 1972 when the stillhouse was rebuilt with a new wash- and spirit still.
In 1998 the Distillers Edition Oban bottling was launched, which is matured on Montilla sherry casks. It was awarded a gold medal at the International Wines and Spirits Competition in 2002.
Production at Oban
Oban Distillery takes its water from a loch called Gleann na Bearricdh which lies 2-3 kilometres up in the hills behind the town. The malt, which is lightly-peated, is not made locally, but is delivered by truck from a central malting company outside of Elgin. The old floor maltings have been renovated and now houses the visitor centre. The mash tun is made of stainless steel. The four wooden washbacks are made from larch and holds 30 000 litres each. The two rather small onion shaped stills are both swan-necked and steam heated. The whisky is matured in bourbon and Montilla sherry casks. The bottling is made outside of Glasgow in Leven, Fife.
Phone: +44 (0) 1631 572004
Manager: Kenny Gray
Visitors: Visitors are welcome all year round. Admission is £4 and is refundable on purchase in the gift shop. Children under the age of eight are not allowed in the production area. The last tour commences one hour before closing time.