Lying on the west coast of Argyll, Oban is conveniently located between the islands and the highlands of Scotland. Its unique whisky also manages to combine the peaty flavours from the islands with a sweeter lighter flavour of the highlands. The distillery is located on a busy laneway in the heart of the Oban township.
In 1794 John and Hugh Stevenson chose this seaside location to start their distillery because of its harbour and accessible transport by sea. Soon the town of Oban began to grow up around the distillery and the habour. Two further generations of Stevensons continued the family’s business interests in Oban. Hugh’s son, Thomas, purchased the distillery and the slate quarries from his father and uncle’s trustees.
Later he built the Caledonian Hotel, but, alas, he ran into financial difficulties through supporting his brother in a printing business in Edinburgh. He attempted to satisfy his creditors by supplying them with slates and whisky. His son, John, who had been living in Peru, returned and took over the running of the distillery in 1830. He managed Oban until shortly before his death in 1869, when it passed out of the family.
In 1883 J. Walter Higgin bought the distillery. Between 1890 and 1894 he dismantled and rebuilt it bit by bit, in order to keep it in production such was the demand for Oban’s malt. He carefully replicated the famously small stills and other traditional features in order to preserve the quality of the whisky.
The distillery buildings and their internal arrangements remain almost the same today as they were following Higgin’s refurbishment.