Kavalan Whisky is making its mark on the global scene, with rave reviews and an expanding presence. Made at the King Car Whisky Distillery, Kavalan is the first whisky distilled in Taiwan. So what’s the story with Kavalan, and with Taiwanese whisky?
Recently, I embarked on a mission to answer that question with the help of a box set of samples, showcasing five of the different whiskies in their lineup. All of the reviews were published on WhiskeyReviewer.com, and you’ll find the links to the full review and a small blurb from each here.
Of the 5 Kavalan whiskies I tried, the Solist Ex-Bourbon was the best. I gave it an A, and had this to say about the whisky:
It’s a cask-strength bottling, and you notice that potent bite. Get past that though and you have vanilla, honey, a peppery spice, and oak. The finish is long and hot, but nuanced and resonating, ending with pepper. Add an ice cube, and you’ll notice more vanilla on the nose, and a softer, smoother taste. It becomes cloudy thanks to being non-chill filtered, and offers a silky mouthfeel.
A few sips of your Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Cask leaves you sitting and contemplating its complexity. It’s flavor runs very deep, offering a rich, complex profile.
My next favorite is the core of the Kavalan Whisky lineup, their single malt. I gave Kavalan Single Malt an A-, saying:
On the palate, Kavalan Single Malt Whisky offers a smooth spiciness, and a light, crisp mouthfeel. There’s citrus fruit, oak, salt, and a hint of a sweeter, deeper depth consisting of chocolate, honey and more fruit. The finish is warm, spicy and lingering.
Another offering from the Kavalan Solist collection is the Sherry Cask. Grading this as a B+, I noted:
On the nose, you’ll find at first a surprising citrusy and floral bouquet, which gives small hints and then deeper bursts of a heartier character, with a nuttiness, and scents of grape and assorted non-citrus fruits, such as plum… On the palate, you’ll find an almost cedar-like wood taste with spicy overtones which will leave your cheeks tingling. The finish offers more spice, dark, dried fruits and a distinctly grape and Sherry flavor…
Interestingly, the Solist Sherry has much less bite than the Solist ex-Bourbon, yet here I actually believed the cask came on a bit too strongly, perhaps overpowering the whisky itself at times.
I gave the Solist Vinho Barrique a B+ as well, with some very unique characteristics:
Your first impression on the nose is sweet, but with a stiff, sharpness beneath it. You’ll notice orange and citrus, a light floral background, and vanilla… The palate offers a variety of spices, pepper and wood, with a dry, intense and hot finish. The wood is prominent on both the palate and the finish, perhaps too prominent, leaving me wondering if the aging and cask utilization here truly meshes as well as it could with the whisky itself…
Solist Vinho Barrique is intriguing, taking you on a journey along several different profiles, and a divergent taste from what you might expect after the nose. Certainly an enjoyable and unique whisky, although not at the top of the Kavalan class.
Concertmaster scored a B- from me, my least favorite of the five but certainly not a poor showing, either:
It’s an inviting and diverse bouquet which gets you excited to take that first sip… only to have it fall completely flat on the palate. My first taste was truly disappointing after all of those aromas I just ticked off. So many rich, pleasant scents on the nose, but where’d they go?
It’s smooth and easy drinking, but exceedingly one note in comparison to the nose. The finish is rather quick and without much burn.
Stay tuned for the updates to this collection, or check out Whiskey Reviewer in the future where you can find them directly in their Taiwanese Whisky reviews page.