Kavalan Single Malt – Solist, ex – Bourbon Cask


I remember the weekend of September 28th and 29th, 2018 like it was yesterday.  I had the absolute pleasure of attending the very first Banff Whisky Experience in Banff, AB . The days were filled with amazing master classes and the evenings each hosted a grand tasting with 77 distilleries and a plethora or drams represented.  After an amazing Friday evening and night out in Banff with some of the grandest whisky personalities,  soon came a late Saturday morning rise for myself.  I am sure we can all relate to those nights when the morning had somehow slipped away, and well… waking at 11 AM, freaked out and realizing my first master class for the day was about to start at noon!!  I did what I do best and that’s pulling myself together, looking like I had all the beauty sleep in the world, haha.  Might have learned a trick or two about that over the years (yay for concealer !) .  
My first class that day was called “KAVALAN – The Single Malt from the other side of the world –  being presented by the late and great J. Wheelock.  God bless his soul!  As I settled into my seat and started gazing over a beautiful tasting mat of 8 whiskies, I quickly noticed the majority of them were Kavalan single malts from Taiwan.  The theme of the class was essentially de bunking non age statements whisky (N.A.S.) and to say the least, I was all ears!

 
Sitting before me along side the Kavalan spread was a large bar of dark chocolate bar and seeing that I kind of slept though breakfast, I was salivating at the idea of hammering it back. As noon swept across the clock though, and Jay’s introduction commenced the tasting, my eyes were quickly focused on the whisky in front of me. And then it happened… upon my first sip of this rich, deluxe, beautiful, viscous, and tropical whisky, I was sold!  It was love at first sip.

Kavalan is known to have one of the most comprehensive lines and offering of Sherry Whiskies , however there are a few that were matured in alternate ways. Kavalan “Solist” Ex Bourbon Oak is a cask strength whisky that was fully matured in fresh hand picked ex-bourbon oak Barrels by Kavalan’s master distiller, Ian Chang at the time.


Whisky romance 101: I am not sure about you, but when I am drinking a high end Whisky such as Kavalan – you better believe I am taking my time with it.  I am not afraid to say I love drinking whisky alone because it gives me some real one on one time to enjoy and unpack all it has to offer. A whisky date!, as I like to refer to it.

Tasting and Reviewing the Whisky

Upon pouring this whisky into a proper whisky drinking glass (in my case a copita), I see a bright shiny, viscous, and oily whisky that has legs for days, coating the glass and presenting a color that’s described by the distillery as “Cattle Egret” which is a Melanesian bird that dawns a beautiful golden colouring downs its neck and wings. The oily residue on the glass reminds moves around reflecting the light reminding me of a kaleidoscope… I am now extremely intrigued.

Nose

Lush tropical fruits, floral frangipani, blooming Jasmine mist and young coconut cream . One the second nosing I get kiwi, melon, green apple, with oak and vanilla.

Palate

The texture is rich, smooth and silky. I get lots of notes of vanilla and oak as well as the Kavalan signature tropical notes I mentioned above and also mango and pineapple. On my second sip the whisky tasted sweeter and I got a full essence of a vanilla ice cream cone with hints of ginger, nutmeg,  and woody notes.
With a couple of drops of water I got notes of white chocolate, raspberry and cream soda .  What a delight!

Finish

The finish is sweet and spicy like white pepper sprinkled on biscuits that lingers on the palate.

Conclusion 
For such a high cask strength whisky (58.6%) it is very luxurious , smooth and elegant, drinking well below it’s ABV.
This Taiwanese single malt cask strength whisky has won a ton of accolades – most recently including double gold at the international spirits challenge 2019 and gold at the San Francisco Spirits competition in 2019.

  • Review written by Zahara Amiri

The Black Bottle Showdown!

Black bottle Blended Scotch Whisky (NAS new bottle) – 40% ABV


This is the Black Bottle you will typically find on shelf at your local liquor store(and one you should definitely have on your bar at all times) It is simply a fine bottom shelf whisky that holds its own, neat in a glencairn, or even cooked up in your whisky cocktail of choice as well. Its been a bartender favourite for decades in the industry.

Nose

This one starts off sweet. Like burnt caramel or brown sugar on freshly made porridge. There is a slight maltiness. Some citrus notes are found but they are almost hidden behind the brown sugar notes. It reminds me of a young sherried highland malt.

Palate

Again starts off with caramel/brown sugar sweetness. It then ups the spice a bit, with some fresh baking like spices. Vanilla spread over a slice of wheat bread. There is a familiar aspect to this.

Finish

The finish makes me think of Bunnahabhain with that hint of smoke mixed with a nutty, and lightly spiced fruit. Like I mentioned, this is something everyone should have. It’s head and shoulders above most blends and for the price it is really hard to beat.

Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky (NAS Old bottling – green bottle) – 40% ABV


This is the fabled old bottle of black bottle. All but a ghost now. Said to be a blend of islay malts and mainland grains.

Nose

Anyone familiar with Islay blends will know this nose. The usual ashy smoke and brine hints are welcomed and prevalent. Followed by a beautiful sweet vanilla and honey note. A little further nosing finds light pear and green apple notes.

Palate

Starts with that ashy Islay smoke but lighter than most Islay malts. This quickly hands the torch off to orange peel and a lemon fruit note. A little bit of honeyed sweetness comes through just before the spice and heat from the peat comes back.

Finish

The finish is rather short but full of smoke and a nice lingering and pleasant peatiness. It was much lamented when the black bottle recipe changed from this blend to the current one which I can clearly understand why. This is a beautifully Islay influenced blend that is as balanced and good as most I have tried from the region but always at half the price. It sad to see these older bottlings work their way into extinction.

Black bottle 10 year Blended Scotch Whisky (2019/20 limited edition release) – 40% ABV

This was a surprise release when it came out, but for lovers of the cult classic, Black Bottle, it became a must have. Unfortunately for most, it was only released in the UK and a couple select countries.

Nose

The first element separating itself from the others is it’s age. There is oak in the nose that you didn’t get with the NAS releases, but not fresh oak, a rich soggy oakwood that been sitting next to a firepit all summer. Accompanying the oak, is a reduced brown sugar sweetness and floral honey.  A little bit of peat and smoke are evident as well.

Palate

This one has both the sweet and smoke, standing side by side. On the sweet side you have honey, vanilla, apple and sweet bready like notes. Like hot cross buns dripped with honey. On the other side you have some baking spices, fragrant peat smoke, and an almost gingerbread spice/sweet mix.

Finish

This one has that balance of sweet and smoke, peat and fruit. It’s a shame the stock was so limited and they couldn’t do a wider release. This shows just what a blend can do if left to age properly instead of being bottled as soon as it legally is allowed to be. A great dram if you can get your hands on it!

Conclusion
All three of these bottles are fairly different from one another. I wish it was possible for everyone to try all three but I know sadly, that is almost impossible. If you come across any of these bottles, do yourself a favour and pick it up. You will be hard pressed to find a better bang for your buck whisky on the market.

  • Review written by Sean Kincaid

Glenmorangie 14 Year Quinta Ruban

The 12 Year Quinta Ruban has always been a steady ‘go to’ for me. It’s one of those bottles that I put on the table for all occasions because it is as palatable a whisky there is. It is sweet, succulent and smooth from the nose to the finish and carries just enough depth to please the experienced whisky drinker but not complex enough that it becomes too much to unpack for the inexperienced consumer to enjoy.

The name Quinta Ruban is derived from the estates in Portugal the wine was produced; Quinta, and the type of Port; Ruby or Ruban as pronounced in Gaelic. The more interesting part of this to me is that, Ruby Port is typically the most extensively produced and most simplistic in character out of all the varieties of Port and it’s normally aged in concrete or steel tanks to prevent oxidation so the lively bright fruity colour and flavours remain. Its not often a Ruby Port is aged in oak casks so they aren’t widely used by whisky distillers which makes this expression somewhat unique.

This whisky is first aged in ex-Bourbon casks which gives it a nice uniform sweetness and a perfect foundation for the Ruby cask finishing. Both of which lend perfectly to one another, creating a balanced dram until you reach the height of the palate where you’ll find a beautiful facsimile of those bright Ruby characteristics we talked about earlier.

Colour

I don’t typically talk about he colour unless its a real stand out quality and with this one, it will solely draw you into buying it without knowing anything else. Its a vibrant amber with a beautiful ruby red glow. Colour can be very important and in this case, it is always a conversation piece and generates some excitement prior to the tasting.

Nose

Somewhat mellow so you really need to plant your nose in the glass it find its true character. Once you sinuses are firmly invested, you’ll find that rich port sweetness accompanied by some malty milk chocolate, citrus and oak spice.

Palate

I love the balance of fruit, chocolate and spice in this dram. It starts off fruity for me, full of peaches and sweet citrus followed by almond and mint chocolate before the baking spices and oak take over up to the finish.

Finish

The spice continues into the finish with a pleasant tannic wine dryness. In between are some lingering hints of the chocolate and citrus remainng from the palate.

All in all, a superb dram. I would prefer enjoying it as an digestif but it by no means should be type cast as such. As usual, it is a great value by as we know and love Glemorangie for always being, so get out there and put one of these on your shelves!

Comparison to Quinta Ruban 12

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This tasting would be complete without doing a quick side by side with it younger version. I honestly wasn’t expecting a huge difference between the two, yet then found myself quite surprised. Don’t get me wrong though, the profile is almost identical but the vibrancy an extra 2 years of maturation attributed to this whisky is outstanding. Adding some needed life to the nose, more creamy maltiness, chocolate and oaky characteristics building some complexity and sharpness to the palate, and then subtly lengthening the finish. All great additions to an already solid drinkable whisky.

Another interesting thing is that they increased the volume to a 750ml bottle instead of the previous 700ml. Considering the Age increased and you get a few each drams out of the bottle but the price pretty much remained solidifies my earlier sentiment. Now, go get this bottle! Cheers!

  • Review written by Steven Shaw

Blackadder – 2001 Ledaig 17 Year Old

Raw cask…. One of the best bottling styles there is. This is as close to straight outta the cask as you can get. Non-chill filtered? This is barely even filtered, period. There are damn “floaties” in this bottle! Lots of them!! Char bits, fatty oil deposits, you know… all that stuff flavour comes from. This bottling literally has it all.

Nose

The first thing I noticed in this dram, this is not the huge funk bomb style of Ledaig we are all used to. Don’t get me wrong, there is funk, it’s just not smacking you across the face as much as it typically is. There is a peculiar sweetness to the nose. A kind of fruit sweetness. Like opening a can of fruit salad, you know the ones with those little red fruit pieces that everyone tries to get but there’s only about 3% of the entire fruit salad made up of these red fruits. With the Ledaig-ness added in, it noses just like that fruit salad with some pepper added in all while sitting down next to a simmering fire, ready to eat it.

Palate

Woah. Sweetness immediate on the tongue. Like a thick oatmeal with brown sugar spread over. Quickly followed by all kinds of brash flavours. Maritime influence shines through. Briney, peaty and heavy. Almost an ashy or smoked vanilla note slips out from the back. The Ledaig shows itself here. That musk and funk comes through but slightly different than in most Ledaig.

Finish

The finish is like fireworks in your mouth. A ton of noise being made all over but trails off fairly quickly. That spicy peat and musky maritime note holds on and a menthol note shines. Like smoking a menthol cigarette after eating a spicy peppered chicken wing….while sitting on a beach beside a fishing boat and a fire flickering away.

  • Review by Sean Kincaid
Look at those FLOATIES!!

Two Brewers – Classic Cask Strength Single Malt

The Two Brewers Cask Strength Single Malt was the first up in our tasting last Friday and representing our Canadian choice for the evening. At first sip it was received rather controversially across the room but as everyone dove into their second and third tries, this northern charmer started to win over some hearts. From expressions of perplexity turning to eyes assentingly looking to one another bringing a collective sigh of relive. It is unspoken but you can tell the prideful Canadian inside us all really wants our home country picks to succeed and stand up against the greats from around the world so its always nice when it comes to fruition like it had.

Two Brewers Whisky , distilled by a couple gentleman up in Whitehorse, Yukon who began their path brewing beer have now managed to put themselves on the map within the world of whisky. Although the climate up north there is not ideal for aging whisky Bob and Alan continue to maintain enough innovative forethought and unique fermentation techniques to consistently produce a good quality juice.

This particular release like the all their others is a limited one and Two Brewer’s first Cask Strength expression.

ABV – 58% / Age – 7-8 years / Mash – 100% Malted Barley / Region – Canada (Yukon) / Cask – New Oak

NOSE – A little rough and tumble on the nose which kind of stood in front of the sweetness which I would of liked more of. Trailing that initial youthfulness though was some nice hints of vanilla, malt and oily leather similar to the inside of a ball glove.

PALATE – Like I mentioned earlier, the palate for most of us really started to open up on the second and third sip. Very viscous on the tongue but displaying a nice salty sweetness once it rested the palate. As it hits the roof of your mouth, a peppery spiciness and more leather finishes it off. On the third go around most of us added a couple drops of water which really brought those sweet qualities to the top of the taste buds with notes of apple, toffee and vanilla while lessening the pepperiness.

Finish – A subtle sweetness slightly lingers before the peppery spice completely takes over. Medium in length but sits more at the roof of your mouth versus the back of your throat.

Adolescent in nature, this whisky was just less polished than those single malt scotches in its price range. Overall a decent pour though which has me rather excited to try some of Two Brewer’s other stuff.

My rating – 7.2 / 10

Member rating – 7.3 / 10

  • Review by Steven Shaw
https://twobrewerswhisky.com/

Glenmorangie – Signet

Truthfully speaking, factoring in all the variables, Glenmorangie Signet is my favorite single malt. It is a uniquely crafted masterpiece with a rich distinctive profile that is unrivaled among whisky’s of its ilk and cost class. When Signet is brought up in conversation, you can expect to hear “chocolate in a glass” from anyone who has tried it and anyone who knows me, knows I love my chocolate!

Glenmorangie markets this release to perfection, with a sleek regal bottle design combined with dramatizing the secrecy surrounding the recipe and ages of the casks they use to blend this magic juice but… when you create such a consistent expression like this, then you can have a little fun things and people will play along. Plus, it’s that visage that makes this bottle so intriguing and why its always proudly placed on the top shelves of whisky collections around the world displayed in a way it will always remain an interesting conversation piece and an even more impressive pour.

Created by Glenmorangie’s Director of Distilling, Bill Lumsden, this creation was the first single malt to use a method that involves roasting ‘chocolate malt’ barley at high temperatures which evidently brings out that chocolate taste we are all so familiar with. In combination with this process, some of the distillery’s rarest and finest of their collection, aging for as long as 30+ years in bespoke designer casks which are blended together meticulously to create this chef-d’oeuvre. The Glenmorangie Distillery actually shuts down for a full week each year, known as Signet week, to focus solely on the production of the ‘chocolate malt’ which is roasted in much smaller quantities in order to persuade out those rich flavors of chocolate and espresso. The rest of the profile is created by the assortment of casks selected for maturation including ex-Bourbon, sherry butts and even new charred oak.

ABV – 46% / Age – unknown / Mash – 100% Malted Barley / Region – Scotland (Highlands) / Cask – ex-Bourbon & ex- Sherry butts & new charred oak

NOSE – Terry’s chocolate orange combined with malt, raisins and an array of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, etc. Honestly reminds me of walking into my moms house after baking her signature coffee cake.

PALATE – This is where the chocolate and espresso flavours come in droves along with a beautiful sweetness of dark fruits like blackberries, plums, and BC cherries and a perfect accompaniment of oak cask influences of bourbon and sherry.

FINISH – Classic highland like finish with some subtleties of chocolate and espresso remaining. Slightly dry and spicy down the throat.

Magnificence in every aspect and a perfect low calorie substitute for desert after a nice dinner. I strongly advise everyone to own it.

Rating – 9.6/10   

  • Review by Steven Shaw

Eau Claire – Single Malt Whisky

With Batch 01 come and gone, Batch 02 of the first barrel aged single malt whisky in Alberta’s modern history was released in limited quantities just before Christmas along side the familiar signs of “only one bottle per customer” just to make sure the love is spread as far as possible throughout the local markets. This is very exciting for an Alberta born whisky man like myself and I have no doubt the community around me feels the same. Eau Claire Distillery who has already received international accolades for there spirit releases have demonstrated the same dedication to quality and workmanship into producing their single malt, made of 100% Alberta grown barley from the soils of the Turner Valley area. Southern Alberta is world renowned for producing some of the best barley and rye in the world which is why scotch makers purchase it for their own distillery’s, so as Eau Claire has so plainly put, “it is only natural that we turn that agricultural gold into fine whiskies.” Makes sense to me!

ABV – 43% / Age – 3~ years / Mash – 100% Malted Barley / Region – Canada (Alberta) / Cask – New Oak

Displayed humbly on their label is the use of a hand plow which I assume is to foreshadow their farming methods. There may be many variations of their motto, “From farm to glass” used by several distillers but Eau Claire uniquely embodies and encapsulates their beliefs and the true definition of what they stand for by that message. More specifically, for their rye and single malt whisky’s, Eau Claire’s farming operations actually use traditional horse farming methods to plant and harvest the grain. That my friend, is a true artisanal and organic approach to manufacturing, and whether its necessary or not, it is those kinds of efforts and ethics I can ride the bandwagon for.

NOSE – Hints of cheese, avocado and malt aromas near the start for me but quickly blossoms into floral and citrus with a subtlety of unripe banana and apple. The nose rounds off fairly nicely and comes together a little more the second time around with more of the sweetness and smell of alcohol coming through.

PALATE – The malt and fruity notes present themselves eagerly from the first drop with entries of vanilla, honey, butterripple and a trace of humus which gives a buttery or waxy like mouth feel. Overall, smoother and more flavourful than I expected finishing off creamy and citrusy but with a hint of banana again which my palate usually pulls out in younger whisky’s. A little more hearty oak influence will go a mile with its already good flavour profile.

FINISH – Light and gentle finish with a caressing sweetness and spice that linger on the back of the tongue.

Eau Claire’s passionate approach is clearly evident in this whisky they have created. From the nose to the finish, this single malt punches way above its weight class in every way. It takes real innovation and forethought to stand among the good single malts of the world, especially as a young three year old Canadian but in my eyes they have introduced themselves to the conversation and left behind a lasting impression. Reaching recognition is the hard part but they still have some road to travel. Some age will do wonders for this whisky helping it mature and balance the adolescence establishing it’s current ceiling.

My rating, which may be a little biased due to my desire for a local distiller like Eau Claire to succeed, is a 7.9/10.

  • Review by Steven Shaw

anCnoc – 1975 Limited Edition Single Malt

109st (Downtown), Edmonton, Alberta

Last up in our Inaugural Tasting, we opened the acclaimed release of anCnoc’s 1975 Vintage by the Knockdhu Distillery. Bottled in 2014 making it 39 years of age and officially older than most of the gentleman that took part in this Friday’s tasting. Distilled in the far northeast of the Speyside region almost bordering the Highlands region (why its considered a Highlands scotch), an area known for being an area rich is natural springs, local barley and inexhaustible peat. This limited edition single malt was selected from merely 3 casks, only producing 1,590 bottles. Aged for as long as it was, in a combination of Spanish and American Oak, surprisingly came out lighter in colour than most whiskies of its maturity. That being said, older whiskies tend to go down a little hot but this vintage finishes as smooth as butter.

ABV – 46% / Age – 39 years / Mash – 100% Malted Barley / Region – Scotland (Highlands) / Cask – ex-Bourbon & ex- Sherry

This single malt by anCnoc was impressive from all angles which is consistently in line with all their bottlings. The AnCnoc brand, still fairly new to the industry has been a nice breath of fresh air in the modern scotch world creating a reputation worth everyone’s time. From a storied and historical distillery over a century old, AnCnoc has combined classic infrastructure and values with new-aged innovation to craft some titillating expressions capable of turning anyone into a scotch drinker.

NOSE – The seductive sweetness of honey and orange rind entice you first followed by mildly toasted raisin bread and toffee cake. At the tail end of your inhale and lasting through your exhale right before you take your first sip is where the sherry makes it’s appearance flirtatiously preparing you palate for greatness.

PALATE – Impressively enough, after such a remarkable nose, the palate is something to admire. As those familiar characteristics manifest into a complexity of flavours the tip of the tongue is met with freshly baked bread pudding, allspice, mink oil, aged leather, tobacco and smoked oak.

FINISH – Full of charisma while being revisited by that lovely sherry zing is an oily mouth feel and a ton of oaky spiciness complimented by vanilla and subtle citrus.

By my standards this was as well crafted a whisky as I have tried. AnCnoc has delivered a range of age statements all performing above other bottles in their price ranges and this one was no different. Not many single malts aged for 39 years go for the price this one is sold at. I enjoyed the 1975 immensely so it rated an impressive 9.6/10.

The society found a way to rate it even higher at 9.8/10, so you can imagine the enthusiasm around the room. Intoxication may have also played in anCnoc’s favour but what’s a tasting without a little fun?

  • Review by Steven Shaw

Kavalan – Solist – Sherry Cask Strength

Picture taken in Edmonton River Valley

For our inaugural tasting we elected to start off with an internationally renowned Taiwanese Whisky from Kavalan. From the Solist series, this single malt, cask strength aged in Oloroso Sherry casks, possesses a completely natural and beautifully aphotic like colour and is a favourite for most from this distillery. Due to Taiwan’s humid and tropical climate, the maturation of their whiskies are accelerated which has afforded Kavalan the capability of producing some fairly high end juice full of rich aromas and flavours wonderfully complex. An essential edge for a young brand still in their infancy compared to the whisky giants around the world.

ABV – 59.1% / Age – 5-6 years / Mash – 100% Malted Barley / Region – Taiwan / Cask – ex-Oloroso Sherry

This bottle was probably the most controversial. Being a full flavoured and cask strength whisky, everyone’s tastes buds and palate maturity clearly varied as I witnessed the differing expressions light up the table while everyone felt this Kavalan out. 

NOSE – I always love the nose at cask strength as the scents rush to you quickly and come easier to identify, especially the prominent notes. For me, a dense Sherry and some fennel/anise or black licorice is at the forefront, mixed with a low lying spread of chocolate, tobacco, raisin, assorted berries and vanilla.

PALATE – A lot of the same here on the palate. The Sherry influence is precise with a ton of dark fruity elements like black berries, raisins and prunes. Underlying when the fruitiness fades a bit is some slight baking spices and a bitter nut like taste.

FINISH – Spicy and warm as it finishes. Not a baking type spice but a
fruitier spice like ginger and caraway. this coupled with a subtle note of
tobacco and cocoa or even coffee like hints.

Overall, nice complexity and an array of good flavours and aromas. not crazy about licorice/anise/fennel notes which is a common thread but the mix of those with the other attributes married quite well. I really enjoyed this choice and have always enjoyed the Kavalan whiskies I have tried in the past so I gave it a 8.5/10.

The group was not as generous, averaging out at 6.7/10. Which the high proof may have been the microcosm driving the scores.