Category Archives: Taiwanese Whisky

Review: Kavalan Whisky Lineup 2014

kavalanKavalan is the best-known Taiwanese whisky distiller (at least in the U.S.), rapidly increasing its footprint from a single bottling just a few years ago (which we reviewed) to a total of nine on the market now. At least five of these whiskies, all single malts, are available in the U.S., and today we take a fresh look at this five-bottle lineup, which includes two standard-proof bottlings and three from the cask-strength Solist line.

Kavalan doesn’t bottle its spirits with age statements, but it does rely on some exotic barrel treatments to create some truly unique spirits.

Thoughts on the five-whisky lineup follow.

Kavalan Single Malt Whisky – I get strong apple notes up front this time around, followed by healthy citrus character. Otherwise my notes mimic those I had in 2011. The palate drips with honey, balanced with modest toast-and-cereal notes, vanilla, and and touches of nougat. The finish brings a pleasant bit of fruit to the forefront before fading away. Straightforward, a bit rustic, and quite simple, it drinks like a young single malt Scotch, modest yet full of life. 80 proof. B+ / $73  (prior rating: A-)

Kavalan Single Malt Whisky Concertmaster Port Cask Finish – Look for the unmistakeable jade-green bottle. Finished in a variety of Port casks, this whisky has a bolder, fruitier nose that hints at raisins and Christmas spice. The body brings it all home, with lush fruit notes — plum and plump raisins, hints of fresh cherries, all lightly touched with cinnamon and morsels of cereal. The finish keeps it going for the long haul — lasting with ample spice notes. It’s drinking well in the summer but would be perfect for Christmastime. 80 proof. A- / $89

Kavalan Single Malt Whisky Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask - A rather muted nose, hard to parse out from the aroma, though eventually it reveals notes of apple and red berries, with a slight iodine kick to it. The body is something else entirely, punchy with raw alcohol that masks a citrus kick alongside notes of vanilla and peaches — maybe even a touch of coconut. The finish is on the short side — mostly fire, a touch of sawdust, and a vanilla-soaked marshmallow that fades away just a bit too fast. Try water. 114 proof. B+ / $170

Kavalan Single Malt Whisky Solist Sherry Cask – Matured fully in oloroso sherry casks; a dark tea-brown in color. What an unusual spirit… the nose offers notes of dried figs and prunes, with a well-aged sherry character to it. The body is intense, a bruising collection of Madeira notes, rum-soaked raisins, burnt orange peel, and cocoa bean. Slightly bittersweet on the finish in the way that old sherry can be, it’s a digestif style whisky with plenty of depth and originality. 114 proof. A- / $180

Kavalan Single Malt Whisky Solist Vinho Barrique – Matured fully in ex-American red wine barrels that have been re-charred. Deep amber, about the same as the prior whisky, this spirit offers a dense and deep nose, offering exotic notes of ginger, chocolate cake, and salted caramel. The body brings out those chocolate notes, touched with a surprising licorice note and some extra spices — lemon pepper, cloves, and a healthy slug of wood. Wild and, again, exotic stuff. 114 proof. A- / $157

kavalanwhisky.com

Review: Kavalan Single Malt Taiwanese Whisky

Believe it or not, this is our second Taiwanese whisky review on Drinkhacker (read about Golden Pure Malt here), but I dare to say you have a better shot of actually finding Kavalan on sale somewhere (especially if you shop duty-free).

A single malt whisky distilled by an outfit called the King Car Distillery and bottled at an indeterminate age, Kavalan is easy on the nose and reminiscent of a solid Speyside single malt, with vanilla, nougat, honey, and fresh bread/malt notes. The body: More of that, moderate on the palate, and easy on the finish. Maybe a little hot.

While totally easydrinking, Kavalan isn’t exactly inspired. There aren’t a lot of secondary characteristics here, just straightforward Scotch-like, rumbling maltiness. It’s hard not to like.

Think I’m crazy? Kavalan is already making some waves, having beat a number of Scotch whiskys in a blind taste test. This is the entry level version; various additional bottlings exist.

Note: Caramel color is added. 80 proof.

A- / price unknown / kavalanwhisky.com

Mystery Review: Taiwanese Golden Pure Malt Whisky

Malt whisky isn’t just made in Scotland. It hails now from locales around the world, with Asia turning in some especially credible single malts (see Yamazaki, et al.).

And then there are bottles like this, a gift to my parents from travelers returning from Taiwan.

I am not sure what to call it since the name does not appear in English. The best I can suggest is that it is “Golden Pure Malt Whisky,” the only Latin script on the bottle and packaging. Of course, it is also called “Golend Pure Malt Whisky” in an included card (which includes the unhelpful URL below), and, even more cryptically, “Golden Walt Whisky” watermarked on the box it came in.

Hmmm.

What it is is basically fairly rudimentary Taiwanese malt whisky… with gold flakes in it. If Dewar’s and Goldschlager had a baby, this would be it. I’m not sure if this is single malt or a blend (pure malt generally refers to vatted whiskys, but there’s no telling what it means in Taiwan), and the nose is little help. Innocuous and unassuming, the aroma reveals little. The palate only marginally more, revealing a grain-heavy, throat-burning whisky with the barest of herbal flavors and a slight sweetness on the finish. Nothing special, but pretty harmless in the end — if, to say the least, quite the conversation piece. And all with the joy of knowing I’ll be excreting undigestable gold flakes for the foreseeable future!

80 proof.

Any additional information on this spirit appreciated!

B- / price unknown / ttl.com.tw