Category Archives: Kavalan

Kavalan King Car Whisky – bottled at 46% ABV

Taiwan — 46% – 200ml sample (thanks to Ian Chang of Kavalan for the sample and patience with the post)

Last November I had the good opportunity to taste Kavalan King Car Whisky bottled at 40%ABV.  Kavalan is single malt whisky from Taiwan.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  What’s more, they’re producing some top notch whisky.

As excited as I was to taste this whisky for the first time, I have a strange prejudice against whiskies that are bottled at the minimum 40% ABV so I was a bit apprehensive.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  What’s more is this whisky is also now bottled at 46% and non-chill filtered.

Before we get to the tasting, I thought I should direct you to images of Kavalan’s beautiful faciliety.  Just surf the web (or, just look below) and you’ll find some truly stunning pictures of their distillery:





Picture above in the image on the right hand side is Ian Chang admiring the casks in his warehouse.  If I could, I’d bottle one of those casks myself.  I really am a fan of the Kavalan line.  Ok, enough daydreaming.  On to the tasting…

On the nose Mouthwateringly fruity – think mangos and tangerine, bananas and honey dew melon.

Honey and sugared lemons.

Freshly ground coffee (just like with the 40%ABV version).

Lots of malt, a bit floral and a touch salty.

Here’s one that brings back memories from weekends at my grandparent’s house…Musty Afghans that have been stored in laminated oak cabinets (I’m referring to the blanket-type Afghans, not the people.  This is not a slur against the Afghani people or the Afghan Whigs).

On the mouth Nice mouthful yet nowhere near as fruity and tropical as the nose lead me to believe.

Highly vegetal and more of the salt I detected earlier.

Leafy greens, cucumber sauce.

Unsweetened lemon chews (if that makes sense).

Finish Short but with a bit of a lemony zing to it.

In sum  The wonderfully fruity nose was very promising and got me in the mood for warmer times.  The salty, more vegetal flavor of this whisky took me a bit off guard which could be a good thing.  Yes, I think it was a good thing.  The finish was just a bit to short for me.  I wanted it to stay with me longer.  Maybe that was purposeful.  It just made me want to sniff and taste more!

Gal of Whisky Israel also reviewed this one recently and seemed to like it quite a bit.

Karen & Matt of Whisky For Everyone agrees, this is a fine whisky.

Kavalan Solist “Vinho” Taiwanese whisky

Taiwan – 58.8%ABV – 200ml (special thanks to Ian Chang for the generous sample!)

The Kavalan range of whiskies, by the King Car Whisky Distillery out of Taiwan, are being churned out in short order but are not being done so in a way that would compromise quality.  I’ve been pretty impressed with most of their whiskies that I’ve tried so far.

I asked Ian Chang of King Car what the make up of the “Vinho” Solist was and I was surprised and impressed by the depth of Ian’s response:

“Indeed, the Vinho is part of our Solist series, which is a cask strength, single cask single malt whisky of course. The most special thing about it is that Vinho is fully matured in used American oak wine barrels that have been toasted and recharred in a way that brings out fruity vanilla notes from the whisky and wood overlaid on a delicate background of complex fruitiness.

The oak casks are made from American oak that has been seasoned in the open air for at least 24 months. The oak is slow grown that results in a greater release of flavours into the whisky. This reduces the astringent effect of tannins and releases more vanilla spiciness and hints of herbs such as dill and lemon grass. The result is softness and added complexity.

The casks have (deliberately) been used to mature both red and white wines which eventually will contribute the background complex fruitiness to Kavalan / Solist Vinhos.

After their use for wine maturation the casks are carefully shaved inside then gently toasted over an oak chip fire for a strictly controlled period of time and temperature. This converts wine residues into a complex mixture of fruit flavours including lime, berry fruits and peaches. Then the casks are charred for a short period of time to release lashings of flavours such as vanilla, ice cream and caramelised sugars.

The result is a more complex whisky than is possible than with whisky casks alone!”

The process sounds very interesting.  Let’s see what it does to the taste…

On the nose Incredibly bourbony; that is to say, strong and sweet notes of vanilla and spice – this does not “taste” like bourbon.

The color, which is like a deep brown mixed with blood red, suggests heavily charred casks and some of the wine influence Ian mentioned.

Musty and heavy with cinnamon and burnt sugar.

Notes of papaya and paper bags.

Blackberries and fresh starfruit.

…an interesting interplay of scents.

Watered down tomato based alphabet soup.

On the mouthDrying and a bit meaty.

For 58.8% ABV, it’s not as hot as I had expected.

Notes of a nice Malbec wine, soft and slightly tannic.

Dark berries and red-wine-soaked raisins.

Left-over fried grizzle and super-sour green apples.

Slightly nutty and again, drying; like the way walnuts can dry your mouth.

FinishLong finish that’s increasingly peppered and a bit caramely….

In sum This is perhaps my favorite Kavalan yet. Very complex and nicely balanced. Sometimes wine finishes can be too complex and lacking balance… not the case with this one.

Perfect for after dinner kibitzing with friends.

Kavalan Single Malt Whisky “Solist”, ex-bourbon, cask strength

Taiwan – 58.2%ABV – 200ml sample (thanks to Ian Chang of Kavalan for the sample)

This is the final day Gal of Whisky Israel and I will be sharing our thoughts on the Kavalan range.  While I’m not tasting these whiskies blindly, Gal and I will not be sharing our thoughts on these whiskies prior to our posting them.  Be sure to check out Gal’s notes on this whisky (a link to Gal’s review is listed below my notes).

Well, so far, for the Kavalan range, I’ve really enjoyed their King Car whisky.  The “Concertmaster” port finished whisky was good (if a little off balance) and the Sherry cask “Solist” was quite the delicious pick-me-up.

This final “Solist” is also a cask strength whisky.  Kavalan have an ex-bourbon cask strength (this one I’m reviewing today) and an ex-sherry (yesterday’s review).

I am a big fan of ex-bourbon cask whiskies and if they’re cask strength… bonus!

Let’s see what we get:

On the nose Big bright bourbony nose filled with vanilla and coconut (almost like a Sno-ball.

Also rubbing alcohol and tropical fruits (think pineapples and even a little guanabana).

Fresh cream (and creamy smelling).

On the mouth Creamy mouth feel – very nice.

Vanilla and honey.

Birch beer with some high effervescence – it’s all fizzy in my mouth.

Finish Long, more fizziness, lemon drops and vanilla ice cream.

In sum A straight forward, light and fruity whisky.  Very impressed with the mouth feel – creamier than I expected, but with some lasting fizz to it – right up my alley.

This is a big, young sweet treat.  Early spring in a warming sun is just right for her.

I truly had a lot of fun reviewing these whiskies (and doing so with Gal!).  I look forward to their being more widely available and feel the world is ready for more “world” whiskies.

Be sure to read Gal’s review here.

Kavalan Single Malt Whisky “Solist”, ex-sherry, cask strength

Taiwan – 58.7%ABV – 200ml sample (thanks to Ian Chang of Kavalan for the sample)

For the next two days, Gal of Whisky Israel and I will be sharing our thoughts on the Kavalan range.  While I’m not tasting these whiskies blindly, Gal and I will not be sharing our thoughts on these whiskies prior to our posting them.  Be sure to check out Gal’s notes on this whisky (a link to Gal’s review is listed below my notes).

I haven’t mentioned this is previous posts – the Kavalan range of whiskies are young.  Maturing in Taiwan where it’s hot as hell and humid as can be, the whisky’s maturation process is incredibly accelerated!  Given the weather conditions in Taiwan and the fact that they lose about 10% of their alcohol content every year (as opposed to the average 2% the Scots experience), the folks at Kavalan bottle this whisky at just three years of age (and they still get that beautiful deep sherry color!!).

So, let’s see how quick life in the cask translates to the final bottled product:

On the nose Big thick, rich and fruity nose.

Dried apricots soaked in sherry.

Stewed prunes and household cleaners.

Some interesting notes of buckwheat honey.

Hot sugary cinnamon.

Dark chocolate shavings.

On the mouth Young and hot (get your mind into the gutter, I mean out of… out of the gutter.).

Decent mouthfeel.

Ghirardelli cherry chocolate covered cherries.

Alcohol-logged Lincoln Logs.

Burning dry grass.

Chocolate Necco wafers.

Finish Short in flavor (quick bursts of cherry, honey and oak), long in burn.

In sum The youth in this whisky is obvious though not altogether bad.  I actually quite like the youthfulness.  If you’re a fan of the morning dram, this may be up your alley.  The perfect whisky to get you pumped up to shovel the snow in your driveway – winter is coming and here in Connecticut, it can be a doozy.  Now I know what to sip on when the snow piles up.

Be sure to read Gal’s great notes here.

Kavalan Single Malt Whisky – Concertmaster – Port Finish

Taiwan – 40%ABV – 200ml sample (thanks to Ian Chang of Kavalan for the sample)

For the next three days, Gal of Whisky Israel and I will be sharing our thoughts on the Kavalan range.  While I’m not tasting these whiskies blindly, Gal and I will not be sharing our thoughts on these whiskies prior to our posting them.  Be sure to check out Gal’s notes on this whisky (a link to Gal’s review is listed below my notes).

Before I got into whiskies, I was a true lover of port and madeira wines.  The fruity spice of port and the earthiness of madeira turned me on like a light bulb.

Being a portaphile – I just made this word up and would hate to utter it aloud as port-a-phile sounds like something else entirely…

Ok, moving on.  Loving port & madeira like I do, I often find myself seeking out whiskies which are finished in these types of casks (such as the Balvenie 17yr Madeira Cask or the Angel’s Envy Bourbon).  When I opened up my sample package from Mr. Chang, I was excited to see a port finished whisky from Kavalan.

So, let’s dig in.  Can you dig?

On the nose Lightly spiced with wafts of mangos.

Spices come back – cinnamon & nutmeg.

Fresh pears and over ripe pineapples.

A youthful nose with some hints of mushrooms and soured milk – earthy.

Pencil shavings.

On the mouth Hits you hard with loads of spice.

Lightly sweet – watered down pear juice.

Good mouth feel but the flavors are a bit elusive.

Buttered rye bread.

A touch of honey.

Oh, actually, there’s a lot of honey here.

Finish Wheat biscuits, side of honey and butter, shortish.

In sum An enjoyable nose on this whisky.  The fruitiness was a welcome thing.  I was a bit let down by the flavor side of this – a touch off balance (or maybe I’m a bit off balance here!) from the nose and, quite honestly, I was hoping for a bit more from the flavor/palate.  The finish was quite nice just a bit too short.

Make sure you read Gal’s notes here.