Last Saturday night, at the SoCal Whiskey Club’s monthly meeting, I had the opportunity to do a vertical tasting of Kavalan. If you’re not familiar with Kavalan they are a Taiwanese distillery, owned by the King Car group, that has been making some international waves. They have, largely, been unavailable in the USA unless you know someone who will bring a bottle back from Taiwan for you. Luckily the club had several such people to help build up the collection to do this tasting.
All-in-all It was a great evening filled with good food, great people who are passionate, knowledgeable, and excited to try some interesting new whisky. But I’ll spare you the details since I know that’s not why you’re reading this. You don’t want to know about my night, you want to know what these whiskies were like and if they will be worth the money if/when they reach American soil or you see them in the Duty Free at the airport.
I’ll be putting up more in-depth reviews over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, here are my initial impressions of each ranked in the order of my favorite to my least favorite. As always if you have had the Kavalan’s let me know what you thought of what you’ve had in the comments below.
1. Kavalan Single Malt Solist Vinho Barrique
Nose: Dark rum, a bit floral, with some citrus fruits and dark chocolate
Taste: Dark rum, cognac, brown sugar, dark fruit, vanilla, caramel, grapes, apricots, and herbs
2. Kavalan Single Malt Solist ex-Bourbon Cask
Nose: Floral, caramel, Irish Whiskey, sweet pastry, vanilla
Taste: Bit woody, sugared Bushmills, lemon / citrus, brulee pastry, malt (with water)
3. Kavalan Single Malt
Nose: Caramel, touch of smoke, tropical fruits, cherry liqueur, chemical bite
Taste: Low smoke, soft grains, toffee, big caramel, honey, pears, vanilla slightly artificial taste
4. Kavalan Single Malt Solist Fino Sherry Cask
Nose: Strawberries, dark fruit, astringent, caramel, hint of vanilla, fudgy cocoa
Taste: Dry sherry, pepper, cinnamon, apples, malt comes in a bit, touch of oak
5. Kavalan Single Malt Concertmaster Port Cask
Nose: Sherry, dry port, dark berries, chocolate, mint, sweet tobacco, honey
Taste: Mint, mild port, almonds, gummy bears, old-fashioned hard candy, artificial coconut
6. Kavalan Single Malt Solist Sherry Cask
Nose: Overripe & dried berries, brandy, old flowers, milky caramel
Taste: Sweet red wine, vermouth, sherry (duh), brown sugar, Iodine, benedictine
The one unifying factor across all of these was how dry they were. After tasting just the second one it felt like all the moisture in my mouth had been sucked out by hydraulic pumps and I was drinking water as fast as the waitress could fill the glass. Despite the dryness, 4 out of 6 were quite enjoyable. I would buy the Vinho & ex-Bourbon in a heartbeat, would love to try the “regular” Single Malt and Fino again, but I can’t really say I enjoyed the Sherry and port Cask very much.