Floor 5 of the Kavalan warehouse is packed with their best sherry casks. The story begins with sultana, Brazil nut, vanilla pod, dates, and chocolate macaroons. The palate has ripe fruit, cherry, date, coffee, candied orange, chocolate, mocha, fruit pastilles, and some pepper, ending with bitter coffee notes. Cutting the strength provokes more citrus, though it reverts back to mocha eventually. Outstanding whisky and definitely the best of the bunch. (499 bottles)
This is the pick of the bunch, the whisky equivalent of Fountains of Wayne; an effervescent dessert whisky, which from the first aroma to the final finish is a consistent mix of vanilla, coconut, and overripe banana, sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon.
Surprise, surprise. This is like the school's best pitcher, who then steps onto the football team and throws for a game-winning touchdown. This is a whole new side to Kavalan. Remember Faith No More doing “Easy”? Having out-sherried and out-bourboned us with kickass rock-n-roll whisky, Kavalan goes for gentle and croony, with vanilla and honey. The coup de grace? Apple pie and cream morph into licorice and menthol. Exquisite.
Rich and intense nose, with paradise cake, honey, dried apple, plum, and crème d’abricot. The mouthfeel is dry, nutty, and fruity, with a silky consistency. The cask strength is more noticeable here, but as it dissipates, there is some late complexity of plum skin and coffee bean with wave after effortless wave of flavor lasting for minutes on end. Finish is hot and nutty, with moist coffee grains. (499 bottles)
The Kavalan flag is unfurling fast. The whiskies are making it Stateside, and they're improving from a very high base. A couple of degrees stronger than previously, this is far richer than any wine cask-matured whisky has a right to be. This is huge, with a tropical nose of mango, melon, and papaya, and a hint of dustiness. The palate is astounding. Rich, sweet, and rounded, it coats the mouth with an intense mixture tempered by burnt toffee and cocoa. Stunning.
Kavalan is Taiwanese whisky from the King Car Company, and the progress its whiskeys are making is truly remarkable. With humidity roughly the same as Speyside — high — but the temperature more than 20° Fahrenheit higher, maturation is on fast forward. This is just 4 years old, but it’s a monster mix of kumquat liqueur, tropical fruit, blackcurrant, and strawberry and cream candy. Later on some eastern spices, especially turmeric, bring it all back home. Remarkable. €70 Currently not available in the U.S.
Damson jam, herbal undertones, banana leaf, scallions, and clean, fresh oak notes. Burst of red fruit; raspberry, strawberry, rosehip, and sherry with lips tingling from the PX spices, citrus enters the fray, then chewy butter toffees. Wonderful complexity and flavor trajectory, it rounds off on a strawberry note. It is great to find a heavyweight whisky that is perfectly approachable at cask strength. The finish stays juicy, with vibrant spices. (502 bottles)
Kavalan Ex-Bourbon Cask Strength Single Cask, 57.8%
Taiwanese Whisky | $175
Delicately complex. Dried vanilla, pineapple, toasted coconut, tangerine, and cream. A kiss of honey and polished oak on the finish. Quite lovely and very versatile; it would make a delicious pre-dinner dram. (Julio’s Liquors and Loch & K(e)y exclusive)
This has a seductive nose of mango, kiwi, dried tropical fruits, rich oak, silky caramels, and milk chocolate-covered cranberries. The dynamics of this cask-strength whisky play out handsomely, with an opening gambit of warm berry fruits, peaking with emphatic spices, and ending with a reflective phase of butter toffee, mocha, and Ovaltine. A dash of water encourages clove-studded orange flavors and preserves the long spicy finish.
This dark, walnut-colored dram delivers the fabulous first-fill sherry cask characteristics we love: raisin, mixed peel, fruitcake, marzipan, Brazil nut, jellied fruits, and nutmeg. So wonderfully thick and chewy that you need to resist the temptation to pick up a knife and fork. It imparts dark weighty fruit, blackened oak, cooked apple, and a twister of peppery turmoil. Add water liberally to unlock figs, dates, and plums.
Each cask of this nicely packaged malt is selected by the distiller, and so there is considerable variation between batches. This one is a step up from last year's releases. It's slightly weaker, but the nose has firmed up into a delightful mix of fresh juicy grape and a spicy dustiness. Tastewise this takes an amazing journey from plummy, sweet fruit up front to a slow dominance of dry sherry at the end. The finish is longer than before. Excellent.
The mark of a good distillery is consistently producing 85 points-plus whiskies, and with this batch Kavalan's going into double digits. If the distillery has a weakness, it's that sometimes it overstates its case and makes even the Aussies look subtle and nuanced. Not here. This is a delicious dessert whisky, with vanilla and toffee in abundance and some sugar candy. But having made its case, it steps back and is surprisingly gentle. Kavalan with subtlety? Scary!
If you didn’t know what it was, you’d swear this was an old and venerable big sherried whisky, and it takes some accepting that it’s still a kitten. The clues are there: hints of immature green fruit and reedy barley, and the finish is sweet and soft, with none of the astringency of an old wood-influenced malt. But it tastes wonderful: rich, sweet, and grapey, with gooey plums and juicy raisins. A sprinkling of pepper dust reins everything in perfectly. €155 Currently not available in the U.S.
Clove-spiked orange, melon, pomegranate, cherry lozenge, and aniseed. Cherry, Strawberry Laces, growing spiciness, ginger, pepper, almost effervescent fruit jamminess. Later, citrus peel, vanilla. Finish has vanilla bitterness and fresh green herbal tones. Water keeps the fruit but boosts those spices on the finish. (532 bottles)
An effusive offering of dark fruits: cranberry, blueberry, and black currant. This is a beautiful marriage of the spirit and the port cask finishing, showing applesauce, aged oak, macaroons, and dry aromatic spices. Black currant holds sway on the tongue, yielding to caramel, ground ginger, a second burst of juicy blueberry, with a hot finish evoking strips of dried tropical fruit and flashes of ground pepper. Rewarding and flavorsome.
King Car is the name of the Taiwanese company that owns the Kavalan brand and this lavishly packaged single malt is its standard bearer. It's not hard to see why. More subtle and complex than some earlier bottlings of Kavalan, this has an exotic fruit, cream toffee, and soft banana nose, and has bitter orange, dark chocolate, and pepper on the palate. It's rapier-sharp, clean, and drying rather than sweet.
When the news arrived that a distillery was being built in Taiwan, the whisky world pretty much dismissed it. When Kavalan appeared at a precocious 42 months, it sat up and took notice. Owned by food and beverage conglomerate King Car, Kavalan started producing in 2006 with blender Ian Chang at the helm — and a hotline to consultant Dr. Jim Swan. Taiwan’s tropical climate pushes the maturation cycle along at a ferocious rate, but the key here is its complexity. Maybe it’s auto-suggestion, but I could swear there’s ginseng in here, as well as honeycomb and black cherry pie filling. Fresh and clean, the spirit is rich and accompanied with great wood. Mature whisky in three years? It’s an accountant’s dream!
Here Jim Swan has taken the bold step of double maturing an already quick maturing spirit, but it works. Blueberries and rich oak are to the fore, while Kavalan’s cherry accents act as the link between spirit and Port. Think rosehips and crème de mures. Thick and liquorous. List price is approximate.
Two out of three ain't bad. While Kavalan doesn't quite pull off the hat trick, this is no album filler either (can we still say that?). It is Karaoke Kavalan, Taiwanese X Factor whisky: a perfect reproduction of a big, plummy, pruney, tannin-soaked rich fruit compote with late fall damp forest notes. It says a lot about this distillery that five years ago we'd have marveled at this. Today, and by its own standards, it's Kavalan doing an Aerosmith ballad.
Admirably, they go to all the trouble of bottling single casks individually for their Solist range at Kavalan Distillery. This single cask has the most gorgeous, deep ruby color and a very fruity nose: pomegranate, fresh orange, plum, walnut jam, macadamia, and some zestier elements. At full strength, it’s mouth drawing; warm, fruity, with stewed plums, young rhubarb, pepperpots, and fine-quality dark chocolate. A clean finish, with the fruit and wood spices remaining fresh to the end. (181 bottles) NT$3,500
With two distilleries now on-site, the new Kavalan has a nose of apple and cinnamon pie, loaves of bread, new hardback books, flashes of lemon peel, and mild spices that flatter the baked fruits. A lighter structure, with pleasant green apple and pear notes, a tingle of pepper and allspice, becoming creamier with the flavor of sherbet flying-saucer candy. More active spices on the finish amid fading fruits.
Whether it’s New York, London, Paris, or Yilan (home of Kavalan), this expression uses the fashionable technique of maturing unpeated spirit in former peaty whisky casks. Sweet, seasoned wood smoke, chocolate peat, dry spices (notably roasted coriander seed), citrus, and tropical fruits. A thick, warming, unctuous mouthfeel perfused with peat smoke, tangy grapefruit, and baked orange, ending on a fruity red licorice and gentle peat finish. Water unlocks moreish, honeyed citrus sweetness, with a peaty nip in the tail. (Distillery exclusive) NT$1,560