Winter is coming, have a dram!

On The Wall the Night’s Watch stays vigilant and today we discuss some of their daily rations: Oban Bay Special Reserve, the Night’s Watch Edition of the Game Of Thrones Single Malt Series.

I don’t have to explain Game Of Thrones or even the Night’s Watch, by now that’s common knowledge. The Watch has always been one of the most intriguing aspects of the entire GoT world to me. In a sense they remind me of those legendary historical units like the Foreign Legion or even better, but way less known: the Bat’ d’Af’ or “Biribi” as they called themselves.

The Night’s Watch having a typical day at the office. Photo HBO.

The Foreign Legion is famous for its last stands and apparently this has grown historically, because in the beginning it was forbidden to them, by law, to retreat. Their most famous last stand is the Battle of Camaron, in Mexico, where the fort’s garrison last counterattack (bayonets only, ammo was long gone) counted no more than 5 men. Of which 3 perished. The two remaining survivors where allowed to leave the fort with their flags and their weapons.

Now, the Bat’d’Af’ is something else. It is short for Battalions d’Infanterie Légère d’Afrique and it was made out of prisoners, war criminals and soldiers with severe disciplinary problems. They were based in Tatouine, not the planet from Star Wars, but the actual town in Tunisia, a very arid and hostile region. Last stands to these guys is actually what they were meant for and they were quite good at it. At the Battle of Mazagran in 1840, 123 soldiers held off more than 1200 rebellious tribesmen. In the Battle of Taghit they repelled 4000 Moroccan tribesmen. It was widely known as one the most brutal and toughest units in the fighting history of men. They had very colorful nicknames like: Les Joyeux (the Happy Ones, ironically, I’m guessing), the Biribi (which is an old game of chance, like roulette) and L’Enfer (Hell). So you take these guys and instead of the desert you put them in the snow on a Hadrian Wall watching the North and then you have the Night’s Watch, more or less.

In the Game of Thrones Single Malt Series, the whisky for the Night’s Watch is Oban, Bay Reserve. It is NOT Little Bay Reserve as you sometimes see on the web. It’s also not “just” Little Bay in another bottle as some people thought. It’s something else. And it’s limited.

The little town of Oban.

Oban, actually means ‘Little Bay’ in Gaelic, and is situated in the Argyll and Bute area in Scotland, which makes it one of the northernmost distilleries in Scotland. It is very remote and its origin story is extremely Scottish. In 1794 two brothers decided that this would be an excellent place for a distillery… and the town was actually built around it! We absolutely love this idea, I mean in our country we mostly have a church or a chapel as the town centre, in Northern Scotland, you have a distillery!

It has only two pot stills, which makes it one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland at the moment. They make a 14 year old (which is the standard edition), 18 and 32, alongside a Distiller’s Edition and a NAS called “Little Bay”. With only two stills, every special edition they make has to be quite limited anyway, but it is certainly the case with Oban Bay Reserve. Actually a lot of people thought it would just be “Little Bay” in a black bottle, but it is not.

The centre of town: Oban Distillery

On the nose, it’s typically Oban, smooth, floral and fruity and that’s also the first thing you get when you sip it. It’s soft, smooth, sweet, fruity and dried stone fruit. But then it hits! First, there’s a touch of salt and then there’s an explosion of peppery notes, black pepper and spice, which contrasts brilliantly with the sweet, smoothiness you have at first. And in the Finnish it blends in together. It’s a very nice Oban indeed! The packaging is equally stunning, all black with the Night’s Watch Oath on top of the label. This bottle really grabs your attention and it has stories to tell, so it’s great to share with friends and fellow fans of the GoT series.

An example of the beautiful packaging

Oban Bay Reserve really surprised us. At first we thought that the dark chaps on The Wall deserved a very robust whisky, something to warm them up, like a cup of Talisker Hot Chocolate for instance. I could really imagine them standing on the wall, in the freezing snow, cupping their mug, blowing steam off the hot, tasty drink, their only comfort of the day. But actually Oban Bay Reserve also befits them nicely, because it sort of soothes you, makes you comfortable and then, in the peppery finish, it reminds you of your duty.

New provisions for the Night’s Watch should include the Talisker Campfire Hot Chocolate Kit! Also delightful.

Oban Bay Reserve is the perfect Holliday gift, if you still find one… stay vigilant!


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