Whisky Advocate

Whisky Advocate Award: World Whisky of the Year

December 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.Kavalan-Solist-ex-Bourbon

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.

10 Responses to “Whisky Advocate Award: World Whisky of the Year”

  1. Mr. Manhattan says:

    I don’t know why there’s not more general excitement about this whisky. Making but especially aging a whisky under unique conditions is something worth paying attention to, especially if early results are as promising as this. I tried several expressions of Kavalan this year in SF at both Whiskies of the World and WhiskyFest. Dunno why more folks weren’t clamoring around the tables—though I will say I think the folks pouring should be able do a better job explaining the differences between the various expressions.

  2. Lew Bryson says:

    I suspect the lack of general excitement has to do with the lack of general availability, and maybe over-excitement. Kavalan’s just getting out onto the markets, so not many people have seen it, tasted it, and there are a LOT of good new whiskies hitting the market. Our attentions are being sparked by so many things, excitement is diffuse. Maybe.

  3. Smithford says:

    I think the lack of general excitement is due to the price. $100+ for a NAS whisky rumoured to be around 3 years old? I’m sure it’s fantastic whisky, as plenty of people seem to really like it. But there’s something way out of whack with the value equation at Kavalan.

  4. Chap says:

    I can’t source the stuff, so it’s hard to get too excited about several of these winners I can’t buy. (I thought I was going to get a hold of that Four Roses, but no joy.) Eh, whaddya gonna do.

  5. Mark S says:

    I saw a bottle of the Soloist Sherry Cask up here in Toronto, but as interesting as it seemed – unique aging conditions and the rest – $213 was more than I was willing to spend. Hopefully down the line they, or someone else, will release a Taiwanese whisky in my price range.
    By the way, can someone explain to me why a 3 year-old (rumoured) whisky costs $110 USD? Limited production, shipping, taxes and duties, novelty?

    • Mr. Manhattan says:

      That’s not all that much more than the Hudson Baby Bourbon which a lot of people seem pretty happy to pay.

  6. Mark S says:

    I saw a bottle of the Soloist Sherry Cask up here in Toronto, but as interesting as it seemed – unique aging conditions and the rest – $213 was more than I was willing to spend. Hopefully down the line they, or someone else, will release a Taiwanese whisky in my price range.
    By the way, can someone explain to me why a 3 year-old (rumoured) whisky costs $110 USD? Limited production, shipping, taxes and duties, novelty?
    I don’t want to sound bitter, sorry. Congratulations Kavalan!

  7. Dom Roskrow says:

    I take the point about price but these whiskies are single cask bottlings produced a long way away in climates where the humidity is far higher so the angels’ share is greater. As for the age – it’s as relevant as comparing A football score to a baseball one. The likes of Kavalan and Amrut are operating to a different set of rules.

  8. ely says:

    ordered the bourbon, sherry and vinho barrique and the fino bottle last month from thewhiskyexchange.com – shipped to NY – vinho barrique (blue label) was by far the best one! fino (most expensive in the gold label) was most disappointing if you ask me… but hey, just one mans opinion.

  9. Danny Maguire says:

    As valid as anyone else

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