Kavalan Distillery Tasting Notes

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Taiwan, World Whiskies & Spirits

Kavalan Single Malt 40%

Fresh & refill Bourbon and Sherry, plus red & white Wine Casks

Tasted: Sept 2013

The nose opens with some lovely, juicy sherry notes – dates, prunes and walnuts before moving into creamy American oak territory, which begins to firm the aromas up. However some sweet raspberry and red cherry appears along with a touch of lightly herbal spice, then it is back to the creamy American oak. Delightfully complex.

The palate is clean, firm and angular with a bright red fruit to the fore, set against a backdrop of sherried dried fruit (dates, raisins). The tannins and American oak build on the middle but don’t overpower the malt. Good length with the lightly spiced red fruits lingering along with a light cocoa note.

Kavalan Concertmaster 40%

Bourbon/ Port Finished

Tasted: Sept 2013

The nose is fragrant and a touch dusty with hints of cinnamon and anise. Very sweet and very winey. In fact the aromas are all about the finishing cask, although a little American oak can be detected with time, but no spirit character unfortunately.

The palate is soft and winey with an earthy, almost sulphury note. Tart and tannic with that sulphur note beginning to dominate. It finishes quite dry, woody and dusty with a little spice. However those tannins leave the mouth feeling a little furry! Slightly minty aftertaste.

Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon 57.1%

Tasted: Sept 2013

The nose is quite oily and dense with a plethora of toasty oak and creamy vanilla, but all this oak is beautifully balanced by some lovely, crisp, fresh green fruit, apple and grass along with a late coconut nuance. Vey elegant and very Spey-like.

The palate is soft, opening with the light barley and a touch of grass. Again it seems very Spey-like. The oak rolls in with creamy vanilla, toffee and beautifully soft, sweet spices. The finish is a little sharp with the combination of oak and alcohol drying the finish. In saying that the after-taste is pleasantly juicy.

Diluted the aromas become amazingly juicy and fruity, oozing with sub-tropical banana, apricot, banana and a huge coconut hit. The oak has become wonderfully creamy as well. Wow! This is an amazing nose, and there’s still some green fruit and citrus to balance the oak. The palate is sweeter and fleshier, maybe not quite as exuberant as the nose but still displaying a lovely depth of apricot, white fruit and toasty oak again balanced by the citrus notes. Quite oily on the finish now with the gentle, sweet spices lingering. Still a little on the dry side but hugely enjoyable.

Kavalan Solist Fino 58%

Tasted: Mar 2012

An intense, oily and slightly ascerbic marc-like nose. Extremely young with some confected boiled sweet like fruit and a touch of slightly dirty straw. Water just makes the nose oily and simple.

The palate is pretty simple. Burnt caramel, dried fruit and lots of alcohol. With time it develops some old-ish marc, boiled sweets and straw notes. Water makes it a tad watery and confected. [I think I was being a bit generous with the score!] Short, alcoholic with a slight perfumed finish.

Kavalan Solist Fino 58.6%

Tasted: Feb 2013

Nose: Sherried, malty and tarry with hints of lightly raisinated fruit. A touch of herbal spirit comes through. Water makes it quite smoky and quite silky.

Palate: Full, tannic, but relatively soft sherry cask with hints of liquorice, treacle and malt. Not much spirit character but the sherry is spotlessly clean. Water again brings out a touch of smoke.

Finish: Quite alcoholic with the herbal spirit dominant.

Conclusion: Relatively pleasant. It seems quite young and not quite harmonised as the herbal spirit breaks through the heavy sherry influence.

Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique, Single Cask 58.4%

Aged in re-charred ex-American oak wine casks.

Tasted: Sept 2013

The very toasty oak shows up first with a huge hit of cinnamon and nutmeg spices. There is no shortage of sweet, winey red fruit with hints of coffee, brown sugar, tropical melon, mango and papaya. Exceedingly sweet now, even the spices have become very sweet too!

The palate is quite dry and tannic with plenty of toasty oak vanillins and alcohol. There are hints of sweet red fruits but the vanillins are exploding! Very intense and spicy on the middle with the oak slightly bittering the finish.

With water the oak is tamed to a certain degree, but it’s still there! A little more aromatic with some citrus and mint notes. Still pretty sweet and to be honest a little sickly. The palate is softer with more emphasis on the winey fruit. Less intense but there is more juicy barley led spirit character now. Quite oily with a long cinnamon and sweet spice finish.

Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique, Single Cask 58.6%

Re-Tasted: Feb 2015

Nose: Dense aromas of treacly sherry, liquorice and aromatic, juicy dried fruit. Very complex with hints of smoke, herbs, – thyme and rosemary, prune, vanilla, mint and hops. A seriously exciting notes with a lovely herbal, smoked character. A drop of water softens but doesn’t make any changes.

Palate: Very smoky on the palate – dry smoke, both peat and wood smoke. Quite herbal with some good fruit beneath but the alcohol masks it a little. Water softens and brings out the oils which does make it feel a little less complex.

Finish: Very alcoholic and masked but damn spicy! Lovely herbal after-taste.

Kavalan Solist, Amontillado Sherry Single Cask 55.6%

Tasted: Feb 2016

Nose: Big, juicy, nutty sherry with a touch cigar smoke. Prunes in syrup and balancing citrus notes and hints of winey red fruits. Very complex with developing coconut, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Palate: Huge, winey red fruit, melon and dusty peat, the wood comes in on the middle brining a fair amount of drying tannins. Dark treacle, nutty molasses counter and balance the alcohol. A lovely progression of flavours.

Finish: Long and treacly with a huge spicy burst!

Conclusion: Seriously impressive.

Kavalan King Car Conductor 46%

Tasted: Sept 2013

Quite an oily nose, with hints of lanolin and roasted nuts. Rich, deep and malty with hints of barley and vanilla. Gentle and elegant with thankfully a lot less oak which lets the spirit show its malty, lightly honeyed Speyside style. With time a light green apple perfume appears and the oak becomes slightly buttery.

The palate is soft and quite full with a gentle malty oiliness, followed by oily vanilla and a touch of citrus and barley. It dries towards the middle as the sherrywood tannins emerge and begin to grip. Again quite elegant, maybe note quite as complex as the nose suggests but the finish is pleasant with hints of dried fruit and light, dry spice.

Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak 46%

Score 8.1

Best Asian Single Malt

Nose: A big, broad and full on nose of perfumed yellow fruit and toffee. It feels a little winey at the edges but the big, buttery caramel toffee oak dominates. (3.4)

Palate: Soft barley and apricot with hints of dandelion, jasmine and toffee. Even the toffee seems perfumed! Like the nose the oak comes barrelling in and takes over. (3.3)

Finish: A little alcoholic with some bitter spice and herbal notes trying to break the oak stranglehold. (1.4)

Conclusion: Too much oak and lacking the wow factor.

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