Whisky Advocate Award: World Whisky of the YearDecember 16th, 2013
Kavalan Solist ex Bourbon Cask, 57.1%, $110
2013 was a strange year for nontraditional whisky making countries. For many distilleries it was a year of consolidation for existing expressions and expansion in to new markets. A new wave of distillers—Paul John (India) , Overeem, Limeburners, and Hellyers Road (all Australia), Copper Still (England)—took steps toward the international stage, while only St. George’s in England, Zuidam in Holland, and Mackmyra in Sweden punctuated the year with more than one special and original release.
But the year belongs to Taiwan’s Kavalan, which totally put to rest the notion that it is a whisky karaoke act doing as good impression of premium class whisky. Kavalan, some argue, has little substance or staying power.
My take on that? What nonsense! I have been a fan of this distillery for some time now, scoring eight of its whiskies at 90 or more. But this, for me, is the pick of a very strong bunch.
The distillery makes much of the casks it uses, and rightly so: they are sensational. But this expression puts to bed the suggestion that that while the cask may be willing, the spirit is weak. Here licorice, honey, and tangy spice fizz around a malt core that gloriously combines pineapple, tropical fruit, and vanilla ice cream. It’s clean, fresh, rich, balanced, and blemish free, and it stands up gloriously against comparable malts from Scotland.
The distillery now needs the confidence to go its own way and give us something distinctly Taiwanese. When it does, Kavalan will be a world force riding its own momentum. —Dominic Roskrow
Tomorrow’s Award will be the first of our Scotch whisky awards: Blended/Blended Malt Whisky of the Year.