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

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.

Inaugural Tasting

The Line up!

Park Whiskey Society held our first tasting event at the end of November and without reservation, the evening was a total success. You could tell there was a feeling of dubious excitement among the guys as they introduced themselves and absorbed the environment. Which I can’t blame them for. They were all asked for and sent their money with no true explanation besides the fact we were going to use their funds to purchase whisky. How much? What kinds? Where from? Are all valid assurances that we could have informed them of but truthfully we were kind of just flying by the seat of our pants, optimistically expecting everything to fall nicely into place… which it certainly did. When you are as passionate as we are for whisky, good things just simply come together. So good that, we even had a surprise bottle slip into the tasting that left us all, jaws dropped and panties removed. It pays to surround yourself with amazing people!

Each tasting will experience representation from all over the globe with a few fixtures of course. One being, since we are proudly Canadian, we will always showcase a whisky from the great white north. Second and third being, there will always 2 scotches and a bourbon there as well. The remaining bottles will be made up of any other of the various whiskies or whiskeys from all over the world. 

For this 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.

For entire tasting notes and ratings follow this link. https://parkwhiskeysociety.com/2019/01/09/kavalan-solist-sherry-cask-strength/

Representing Bourbon in our tasting comes from one of my favourite brands around the industry, Michter’s Distillery. Reliably bottling and releasing consistently great whiskeys, this Single Barrel 10 year is no different. It’s a very delicious bourbon and is more than deserved to be part of everyone’s collection. Worth the price tho? Maybe for the $100 USD I found it for in Minneapolis but up in Canada where is cost upwards of $230 CAD, I am not sure it is… Luckily for me I frequent the states. For those of you that don’t, there are plenty of Michter’s whiskeys that will still impress in lower price ranges.

For entire tasting notes and ratings follow this link. https://parkwhiskeysociety.com/2019/01/12/michters-single-barrel-10-year-bourbon/

Nestled in the cold Alberta plains where rye is born, the next bottle to make our tasting line up is a Canadian masterpiece, Lot 40 Cask Strength, aged 11 years. This limited release cask strength is quintessentially Canadian and has become the country’s darling within the whiskey community. The 100% Rye, aged in new oak is once again receiving the highest of praise across the country and internationally. It’s 2017 predecessor is almost impossible to find only a year later and I can only assume this bottle will follow suit. Snag one while you can before its too late. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a few home grown beauties like this on the shelf to demonstrate some nationalistic pride. Canada still occasionally punches in a high weight class but never seems to get the attention it deserves in the whisky community.

For entire tasting notes and ratings follow this link https://parkwhiskeysociety.com/2019/01/13/lot-40-11-year-cask-strength/

Up first in the scotch department is Bunnahabhain’s 25 year single malt. This carefully created and methodically aged scotch is highly regarded with some very impressive accolades. Both sweet and smooth, this sherry aged whisky offers a complexity of flavours finished off by that signature kiss of Bunnahabhain peat smoke. This distillery is highly regarded and makes some unbelievable juice but this 25 year they have created is a stand out and is absolutely magnificent.

For entire tasting notes and ratings follow this link. https://parkwhiskeysociety.com/2019/01/13/bunnahabhain-25-year-single-malt/

Lastly, we have 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 northeast of the Speyside region almost bordering the Highlands region (why its considered a Highlands scotch) known for being an area rich is natural springs, local barley and inexhaustible peat. This limited edition expression 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.

For entire tasting notes and ratings follow this link. https://parkwhiskeysociety.com/2019/01/13/ancnoc-1975-limited-edition-single-malt/

As for our surprise bottle…

None other than the godfather of bourbon himself! Looking so damn sexy was a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23 year standing heavenward, casting a shadow over the rest of the line up as if they weren’t there at all. Let me preface by saying, in Canada, this whiskey or any Pappy for the matter is pretty much impossible to come by unless you are going to pay a $100+ dollars for a single ounce in the couple bars that serve it. So, to see it grace our presence tonight was a pretty special thing. Full review coming soon.