While the standard Oban 14 single malt has a lot of admirers, I personally found it underwhelming. So part of me thought it was a dumb move to spend nearly 50% more money on a whisky of the same age from the same distillery.
And yet, I'm glad I listened to the satisfied voices of a lot of other online reviewers, because the Oban DE is fantastic and a completely different beast from the regular 14-year. So much so that it's very much worth the money Diageo is asking for it.
I suppose we should talk first about what makes the Distillers Editions cost more, whether we think the surcharge is warranted or not. Basically, it comes down to rarity and a secondary maturation. The DEs are produced in scarcer numbers each year than the standard expressions, so naturally Diageo charges more for them. However, the DEs are also finished off in barrels of different kinds normally used to age the spirits. The Cragganmore DE uses port casks to enhance fruity flavors, for example, while the Caol Ila DE uses Moscatel sherry to lend a sweeter taste to the base spirit.
In the case of the Oban DE, the distiller has chosen to do the secondary maturation in Fino sherry casks, which you don't see very often—typically most whiskies on the market use the sweeter Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez varieties.
Whatever that extra "oomph" is that's being given to the Oban by the Fino, I'd say it works, and a lot of people seem to agree that along with the Talisker DE, it's the best of the range. The Oban DE opens with a lot of good wood spice and citrus. Orange is a prominent feature of the Oban distillery in general, but here it really shines.
On the palate, the Oban DE leads with the orange before the Fino sherry takes hold. While a lot of Oloroso sherries seem to give whiskies the taste of raisins or prunes, I think the slightly drier, mustier nature of the Fino brings out more dates and figs. There's also quite a bit of cocoa and salty almonds in the middle of it all. I find the whisky ends with just a little bit of smokiness while leaving a lot of the fruit and salt, so the overall impression is not unlike that of snacking on a good charcuterie plate.
Again, in comparison to the standard-grade Oban 14, here I'd say you're spending more but getting more. The DE has a delightful degree of sophistication that's reminiscent of fine dining and the set of tastes that you'd come to associate with a $90 whisky. It's sherry-matured, but this isn't a sherry monster that obliterates the orange or salt present in the base spirit, and that goes a long way in my book.
If you want to treat yourself, I'd argue that the Oban DE is a great way to do it.