Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Turning Taiwanese: Kavalan
World whiskies are getting bigger all the time as more and more countries follow the example of Japan and make Scotch style single malts. Kavalan is a Taiwanese single malt whiskey made at the King Car Distillery that came on the scene in 2008. They started with the competent, if unexciting Kavalan Single Malt. Then, in 2010, they began releasing the Solist line, a line of single cask, cask strength expressions aged in different woods.
Kavalan isn't yet available in the US, but hopefully, we will see them before too long. I was lucky enough to have some relatives visit Taiwan and bring me samples from the Solist line so I thought I would see what they're like.
Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Cask, 58.2% abv. (As these are single casks, abv varies from cask to cask)
The nose is fruity with white wine notes as well as some hay and horse feed notes in the background. The palate has the same fruity/malty mix, starting sweet with pears and canned peaches, then malty notes can Cream of Wheat. The finish is just vaguely fruity. This is a nicely drinkable malt.
Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique, 57% abv.
This one is aged in American oak wine barrels that had held both red and white wine. The nose on this one has a very light wine note. The palate is very fruity in the way that sherry aged casks are with dried fruit, but then has some nice, dry woodiness to balance it out. The finish is fruity, with a distinctively grape note, along with a touch of anise. Tasting blind, I would likely guess this was a sherry cask, though maybe third or fourth fill.
Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask, 57% abv.
The sherry cask is aged in Oloroso sherry butts. Nosing this you get figs, sherry, maybe even balsamic vinegar, though not in a vinegary way, if that makes any sense. The palate has dry sherry notes and some earthy, rancio type notes. The finish is full of nice earthy sherry notes. This is certainly comparable to any of the standard, good sherried single malts from Scotland.
Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Cask, 58.6% abv.
The nose on this is striking with big, sweet sherry notes. The palate is very sweet sherry (strange, since fino is a very dry sherry) just bursting with fruit and sweet wine. In the finish, the sherry fades to an Angostura Bitters type flavor.
This Kavalan series was quite good. Kavalan exhibits a sweet, fruity character which is quite drinkable, even at cask strength (tasting blind, I would never have guessed the abv on these was as high as it is). While I enjoyed all of them, the Fino Cask definitely stood out; it's a bold, fruity sherry without any sulphur which hits my sweet spot for sherry pretty well (though it's on the sweet side of my sweet spot). Hopefully, these will land on our shores before too long.
See the LA Whiskey Society ratings for the Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon cask, Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique, Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask and Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Cask.