Featured at World Whisky Day 2015: The name “Kavalan” refers to a Taiwanese ethnic group and means “people of the flatland.” This distillery is only ten years old, but made up for it hiring Ian Chang as master blender and Dr. James Swan to consult. Swan is also responsible for starting Penderyn, which we featured at 2014’s World Whisky Day, among other things. The Concertmaster is their second single malt release and their offerings have been garnering attention since 2010. By 2014, they’d amassed 100 gold medals from spirit competitions, including Best Whisky in the World at the 2015 World Whisky Awards (The Solist). We also like the somewhat musical bent the names are taking. When does the Kavalan Xylophone premiere?
Maturation: Portuguese ruby, tawny and vintage port casks
Nose: Vanilla, port, grass, oak, sweet
Palate: Butter, saltwater taffy, vegetal, sweet
Finish: Sweet, butter
Comments: Water brings out the sweetness a little
Adam – This is a rich whisky to my tastes. The nice balance of saltiness and sweetness lends a buttery quality to both the taste and mouth feel. As it is balanced, neither aspect dominates on its own, nor does the secondary flavors. My only regret is that the finish is light and disappears fast. I like that the port cask finish gives some complexity and probably contributes to both the sweet and sour portions of the taste, yet is not as domineering as others I’ve encountered, allowing the base spirit to show a little more. They’re hard to find in the local whisky bars and can be a bit pricey but do not let that deter you. If Louis from Ace Spirits hadn’t decided he wanted a taste too and opened a bottle of the Kavalan Soloist Cask Strength Sherry Cask Finish for me to try one day in the shop, then we might not have taken the plunge on the line. I’m certainly happy he did, however. Thanks Louis!
Kate – The nose smells very clean to me. There is a slight medicinal quality on the back palate but if disappears quickly. This whisky is very well balanced, so trying to catch all the varying flavors can be challenging. For me, this is one of those layered foods. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss what’s in the middle. So you have to pay attention to what you’re trying to catch everything. But even if you don’t, it’s damn tasty.
Meghan – The nose reminds a bit of the Yamazaki from last year’s World Whisky Day, though it isn’t as exotically floral or fruity. It has a more vegetal quality to the nose and palate than most whiskies. It has aspects that are similar to some of my favorite Highland Scotch flavors but without the sun-kissed field aspect. If I were to assign this whisky a color it would be a deep moss green with just a tinge of burnt ocher. I can taste the port cask in the back palate and finish, which I find refreshing. As time goes on I am feeling a bit burned out by all the sherry finishes one finds out there. I am enticed to try Kavalan’s other offerings as well; good thing World Whisky Day is a yearly event!
Henry – When it comes to cask finishes, this is my new ambassador to the initiated, without doing this fine dram the disservice of calling it entry-level. This one is all about balance. Floral nose, palate smooth and malty with the slightest hint of campfire smoke, the smoke piquing my interest just as the sweet finish takes my hand for a long, slow dance. When the dance is over, a warm glow of golden malt remains.