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 mouth — Drying 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.
Finish — Long 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.