Oran is a new line of blended Scotch whisky that comes to us from an unexpected place: The Perfect Fifth, an independent Scotch bottler based in the U.S., in partnership with Jim Murray, the infamous whisky critic and writer. Murray personally created the two blends — his first ever — from 11 total casks of Scotch he pulled from, well, somewhere. No one is saying anything about provenance — or age.
Murray designed Oran to be an “old school” blend recognizable to whisky lovers of the heyday of blended whisky some 100 years ago, Oran’s grain and malt components are created separately but ultimately combined as the perfect complement to one another. Oran, which means “song” in Gaelic, is a harmonious blend of the finest grains and single malts, unveiling layers of flavor much like the musical layers in a melody.
“There is a temptation to disregard blended Scotch in this time of single malt, yet the blend of grain whisky and malt is a creation which offers myriad possibilities,” said Murray. “The objective in the creation of Oran is to offer delicate complexity and finely tuned balance. I believe we have achieved that in the first two releases, and we look forward to creating additional bends in the future which showcase the same attributes.”
The first two releases, Blend No. 1 and Blend No. 2, are both 50-50-50 blends, 50 percent single malt Scotch Whisky, 50 percent single grain Scotch Whisky, and 50 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Both blends are limited releases, containing only 465 bottles each.
The Perfect Fifth’s website breaks down the whiskies used in each of these blends to the tenth of a percent. You can check that out for more detail, but here’s what you’re getting:
21-year-old single grain
34-year-old single grain
24-year-old Glen Grant
We got samples of each to try, so let’s do it — despite our generally mixed feelings about Murray.
Both are 100 proof.
Oran Blended Scotch Whisky Blend No. 1 – A 100% bourbon cask blend. Light in color, light on the nose, light on the tongue, it’s an indistinct blend that leans on its malty backbone, connoting youth while layering in notes of sea spray and a not insignificant amount of smoke. A hint of gunpowder and some char belies the bourbon barrel regimen. The palate is sweeter than the nose lets on, which is a good thing, giving the whisky notes of baked apples, toasted sesame oil, and a sprinkle of baking spice. The midpalate is healthy and rounded with vanilla and brown butter notes, the gentle brown sugar sweetness slowly fading as it settles into a finish that offers a bit of warmth — not really heat — and a reprise of beach bonfire smoke. All very gentle and approachable — the exact opposite of how I perceive Murray as a person. A-
Oran Blended Scotch Whisky Blend No. 2 – Here we add “a sherried cask component” to the mix, though it’s unstated whether the entire whisky comes from sherry barrels or which ones have a sherry version. It’s quite a different animal, and not in a great way. Sherry can brighten up a sleepy whisky, and it sounds like a great move for Oran. Alas, it doesn’t really work here. The nose is moderate with citrusy sherry notes, but they’re paired with a beefy, savory quality that becomes stronger in glass as the fruitier notes begin to fade. Chewy, malty, and boldly tannic on the palate, a rush of vanilla and citrus soon finds itself compounded by an aggressive savoriness, here showing as mushroom and sesame seed, though some almond in the mix provides a bit of life. A very, very doughy body clings to the tongue, coating it with mushroomy umami notes that linger for what feels like hours. Scattered and funky, it never managed to make much of an impact for me. B-
A word on pricing: Both of these offerings have a significantly high asking price given what’s in the bottle. I’ll be interested in seeing if, over time, those price tags decline.
$189 each (700ml) / theperfectfifth.com