Kavalan Solist Cask Trio – Sherry

After the Kavalan Solist Brandy and Port casks, we finished our trio with the familiar Sherry cask.

Except this is the thing about all Kavalan Solist whiskies, each is a unique cask which means there is also something to discover about the elements specific to that particular cask – be it from 2008, 2009 and even two from (20102010).

So which one did we try? A cask from June 2009….

Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask S0906080388 Bottle 098/522 57.8%

Nikkhil’s tasting notes

  • Color: Dark Varnish
  • Nose: Now that’s what you call a Sherry monster! A blast of prunes, orange oil, espresso, chocolate. Whiff of pencil shavings, tobacco, leather, old furniture. Stunning!
  • Palate: Thick like treacle. Gorgeous mouthfeel, if only silk was edible! Follows the nose note to note. It was Christmas all over again. Drams like these should not be dissected. They are simply too complex for words. Hence I’m going to stop. Just sit back and enjoy this masterpiece.
  • With Water: All the gorgeousness gets amplified.
  • Finish: Long and warming. Like a conversation with an old friend.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

And now… to shift from what the tasting group had to say to the separate sampling session…

Carissa’s tasting notes:

  • Nose – More restrained than the 2nd dram, yet clearly has a solid sherry quality, dry, tight fruits
  • Palate – Rich, velvety quality, coffee, chocolate, complex, almost evaporates in the mouth, gorgeous and completely delicious, silky smooth and refined
  • Finish – Not just long, simply remarkable

The colour alone gives it away – deep dark maple syrup. Had all the hallmarks of a mature whisky – the way a sherry cask matured dram should be. “We are not worthy.” Exceptional.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

And the reveal?? Kavalan Sherry… not old at all, just the beneficiary of an accelerated maturation in the warm climate of Taiwan.

The folks at Kavalan have this to say about their Sherry Cask:

Matured in Spanish top quality oloroso sherry casks in special editions, Kavalan Solist Sherry is bottled at the distillery, without any colouring or chill-filtration. It is a naturally smooth and rich whisky with a complex character. It is clean and complex with multi-layers of dried fruit, nuttiness and spices with some marzipan and vanilla touches to it as well.

  • Color – Dark and mouth-watering raisin
  • Nose – Clean and complex with multi-layers of dried fruit, nuttiness and spices with some marzipan and vanilla touches to it as well.
  • Palate – Rich, oily and full with pleasant dried fruit and spices that linger on in the mouth plus a hint of fine coffee.
  • Tasting – We suggest drinking Kavalan Solist Oloroso Sherry Cask neat.

Our Kavalan Cask Trio covered:

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Kavalan Solist Cask Trio – Port

Next up in our trio of Kavalan Solist cask explorations was a single malt matured in Port casks. While sherry casks is a standard, there are few examples of whiskies matured in port casks – however most are ‘finished’ rather than maturing the full time in an ex port cask. So, when tasting completely blind as we did for this whisky, we can be forgiven for not immediately recognizing it as a port cask rather than sherry.

And what was discovered in our two separate tastings?

Kavalan Solist Port Cask 0090728014A Bottle 188/205 58.6%

Nikkhil’s tasting notes with group:

  • Color: Dark Burgundy
  • Nose: Red fruits. Something immediately grassy about this one. Mildly citrus as in orange oil. A tad shy. After airing it a bit a lovely chocolate note appeared with more dark red fruits. A tiny hint of Sulphur but in a good way. Very interesting indeed.
  • Palate: Lovely creamy mouthfeel with beautiful notes of melons, currants, allspice. Some mellow ash, old furniture/bookshelves. Plums, raisins and star anise. Bitter tannic notes appear. Leather chairs and licorice. Very busy indeed and kept evolving. Super stuff.
  • With Water and a little rest that lovely chocolate note from the nose is brought to the forefront along with some toffee/coffee and roasted walnuts.
  • ​Finish: ​Long with spices, tobacco and slightly bitter tannins.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

Carissa’s tasting notes:

  • Nose – Mmmm… old wood, fruity – dark and dried, star anise, dry and dusty, prunes peaking behind… really growing, shifts into chocolate, complex, opens up more and more with rum raisins, seemed like a restrained sherry not the full on Christmas cake… just stunning, rich fruit
  • Palate – Super turbo star anise, polished old wood, full on spice, dry, deep flavours, as complex on the palate as the nose, sooo lovely, dried fruits, prunes, plums
  • Finish – Long, strong and beautiful

There is a concentrated quality to this dram. After setting it aside for a bit, revisited and found the nose had shifted into a bright citrus, palate retained the gorgeous spice and with a few drops of water opens up even more.

It gave the sense of being nearly Sherry… so when the reveal showed it wasn’t sherry at all but instead its cousin port, it all fell into place!

Photo: Keshav Prakash

The folks at Kavalan have this to say about their Port Cask:

Port is a Portuguese fortified wine that is robust and sweet with a fuller and richer body. It is therefore usually served as a dessert wine or digestif. Kavalan Solist Port Cask is fully matured in Portuguese Port barriques under the subtropical climate to create the multiple fruity flavours such as plum, blueberry, blackberry and strawberry just to name a few, with chocolate as the main background note.

  • Color – Deep ruby
  • Nose – The rich fruity and nutty flavours combined and enhanced by orange and citrus notes that can be enjoyed together with gentle and elegant wood spices of our American oakiness.
  • Palate – Satisfying fruitiness blended with quality chocolate aromas that melt delicately on your palate. A wonderful and long lasting after taste for your unique sampling pleasure.
  • Tasting – We suggest drinking Kavalan Solist Port Cask neat. It is also perfect with desserts.

Our Kavalan Cask Trio covered:

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Kavalan Solist Cask Trio – Brandy

What a remarkable opportunity – a trio of cask strength whiskies from the same new make spirit – each matured in a different cask.

First up from Kavalan was the Brandy Cask… Sampled initially by our regular tasting group completely blind with notes by Nikkhil then a sample sent to me… also sampled with no clue about the whisky.

Kavalan Solist Brandy Cask AO90709055 Bottle 052/281 55.6%

Nikkhil’s notes:

  • Color: Dark Amber
  • Nose: Initial hit of spirit vapors. Then overripe bananas, hint of honey, kafir lime citrus. Green apples, damp mud, sawdust. Some leather notes now along with beeswax. Overall there wasn’t a lot of weight on the nose suggesting a younger whisky.
  • Palate: Oh my god can somebody please dial the fire brigade! My nostrils are singed and throat scorched. The fire quickly spread around the group. I’ve never had a whisky that hot and raw. Once the fire was doused by glugging lots of water I nervously got back to tasting.  Young and rather thin on the palate and the heat was still simmering! Very little mouthfeel. Volatile. Bitter tannis and spirit driven. A very muted development. I think this one was bottled too early.
  • With water (and it could take a lot) and about 30mins of rest it transformed completely. That acrid heat was gone and the mouthfeel returned. Now there were tropical fruits, pineapple, some hints of mango, lychee and even coconut. On the palate it was now oily with some faint tobacco and star anise. It was also distinctly briny and the bitterness continued.
  • Finish: Very dry and the tannic bitterness continued with hints of licorice.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

Carissa’s tasting notes:

  • Nose – Woah! Varnish… sharp, astringent then started to settle down… light banana, honey, vanilla, shifting into caramel
  • Palate – Harsh, raw, salty, spice, quite a kick initially, very piquant, bit bitter, then a hint of coffee and chocolate
  • Finish – Warm burn, jaggery, lingers… with more of that spice, salty and bitter, long and tingly

Overall had a sense of being young as in very young, possibly ex-Bourbon cask. A bit “in your face” and seemed to have a high alcohol strength so… decided to try again with a generous splash of water…

  • Nose – Brightens it up, lemon, floral and more honey
  • Palate – Rounds it out, still bitter and reveals even a light leather, old wood and much more depth
  • Finish – Intense

While still young, with water much more approachable. Wait longer and it reveals even more.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

What do the folks at Kavalan have to say about their Brandy Cask?

Part of the Kavalan Solist series, matured in the hand-selected and top-quality brandy cask which is then individually and meticulously selected by the master blender with his skill to create uniquely fruity flavors and distinct characteristics for your sampling pleasure. This cask strength single cask malt whisky is non chill-filtered with natural colour to retain the fullest flavours.

  • Color – Seductive midnight amber
  • Nose – Irresistible peach, passion fruit, strawberry and mango fragrances with delicious vanilla, toffee, spices and honey mingling in the background.
  • Palate – Oily, round and smooth with complex and long finish that ends with a taste of sweet lychee.
  • Tasting – We suggest drinking Kavalan Solist Brandy Cask neat.

Would we agree? For this particular cask, a healthy dollop of water and time to open up makes all the difference. Neat? No. Dillute and give it time… Yes.

Curious how we associated the Brandy with Bourbon cask – now knowing what we were sipping, it would be interesting to try it again side-by-side with the Solist bourbon cask.

Our Kavalan Cask Trio covered:

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Kavalan Solist Cask Collection – Brandy, Port, Sherry

The hard thing about having a “real” job rather than running my own business is that the variables beyond ones control are simply much higher. Which means sometimes, despite best efforts, I have to miss a whisky tasting session.

Galloping yet again to the rescue was our fabulous guest writer Nikkhil Shirodkar… except this time our host insisted on a different approach.

  • Our regular tasting group’s collective impressions were captured by Nikkhil who then also enjoyed the great reveal and further discussions
  • A sample trio was generously set aside for me to go through and jot down my notes separately
  • Both sets of notes to be compared to see how similar or different they were, with enthusiastic pressure put to “guess” the theme
  • Then finally… nearly a month later… the reveal

But it was worth it – completely worth it!

Photo: Keshav Prakash

So here we are… drum roll… our original group’s January trio:

It was a remarkable theme exploring three different casks from Taiwan’s Kavalan distillery with their Solist series of individual casks at full strength.

Nikkhil had this to share about their experience when the whiskies were revealed…

So the host decided to quiz by asking us to guess the producer of the whiskies. The only obvious give away before the reveal was that these were intensely Sherried drams. So we round up the usual suspects: Glenfarclas, Glendronach, Aberlour Abunah without thinking about Non-Scottish producers. I don’t think any Non-Scottish producer has an equivalent range to the Kavalan Solist. But then again, how often does one get to sample/drink a Kavalan Solist on a regular basis? We totally missed that one even though in hindsight it was so obvious.

What Kavalan has achieved in terms of the sheer quality of their offerings is truly remarkable. We are all aware of the hot tropical climes and its effect on maturation but its more than just the weather. Every process, right from the selection of the barley to the shape of their stills, the best wood policy and access to a variety of premier casks all add in delivering stunning whiskies.

Remember that the entire Kavalan range is NAS! Is age on the bottle then just a number? A quick a tip. Every bottle in the Solist range has a code which can be decoded very easily to reveal its age. For eg. S0906080388 bottled in 2015 makes it roughly 6yrs old. Here is how:

Sherry Cask | Year |  Mon |  Day |  Barrel on the Day

S  |   09 06   |  08  |  0388

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Mars Iwai Traditional Blended Whisky 40%

At various international airports, I’ve spotted Iwai Traditional and its cousin Mars Maltage “Cosmo” a few times… And not to scoff at reasonably priced blends, it just never quite made it into the final “cut” to come into Mumbai, India.

Which is why it was a welcome appetizer at a recent Whisky LadiesContributor’s Choice” evening…

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

Mars Iwai Traditional Blended Whisky 40%

  • Nose – Very sweet, banana, caramel, candied green apple, raisins, a bit dusty, soaked fruit. However rather than opening up to reveal more, as it aired took on an almost ‘flat’ quality, settling into a sweet rum or apple juice
  • Palate – Clearly quite a bit of grain in the blend, pineapple rum cake, cardboard, no body at all, came across as a bit raw and young, a slight hint of charcoal peat
  • Finish – Bit of a spice burn and that’s it
  • Water – Not quite sure why but it was attempted. Just don’t. All it does is bring out sharp alcohol and adds nothing to the equation

Now our Whisky Ladies are accustomed to higher strength drams, so it is no surprise several remarked that this seemed to be quite “watered down.”

We expected a pleasant appetizer whisky like Akashi Red Blended Whisky which we had dubbed the “apple cider” whisky. Yet somehow that had no pretence of being more and hence was somehow more enjoyable in its uncomplicated way.

What do we know about this whisky? Not much… except that it is apparently a blend of sherry, bourbon and wine casks with a bit of peat. Alas, I could not track down official tasting notes in English…

The Mars Hombo company is not new to the spirits industry and added whisky to their repertoire in 1949. In 1985, they opened their Shinshu distillery – producing whisky under the Mars label. This distillery at Shinshu, Kuyshu Island, Nagano Prefecture is thought to be the highest in Japan (even more so than Hakushu). More recently, the company is opening a new distillery in Kagoshima, Tsunuki.

What else did we sample in our “Contributor’s Choice” evening?

Interested in reading about more Japanese whiskies tasting notes? Check out the Asia Whiskies page.

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Whisky Ladies Contributor’s Choice – Mars Iwai, Glenrothes, Glenmorangie, Bunnahabhain

You would think having one Whisky Ladies session in January would be sufficient… and we certainly had a merry evening combined with the gents to explore Douglas Laing blends with a bonus!

However we decided to skip our February session in favour of a late January one to welcome back for an evening a member who now resides in the US.

We went completely random in whisky choices… only knowing who would be bringing a contribution… nothing else.

So what did we sample in our “Contributor’s Choice” evening?

Photo: Rashmi Dhawani

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Paul John’s Zodiac Series – Kanya 50%

When I was in Goa at the Paul John distillery early 2017, Michael shared he had plans for a Zodiac series… each whisky named after a sign of the Zodiac, all limited release, likely to be from older stock, each unique.

So when I wandered over to the Paul John booth at Whisky Live Singapore 2017 to say hello to the guys, the 1st Zodiac release – Kanya – was the whisky whipped out with pride… and who could resist an opportunity to try?

It was a sneak peak into a whisky that became officially available early 2018.

Paul John Kanya 7 year 50%

  • Nose – Soft tropical fruits, musty, luscious, fruit drops, citrus sweet and spice, caramel
  • Palate – A real bite, old wood, dry, such character
  • Finish – Long and strong

Overall it was chock full of personality. With a sense of being caught just a moment before being in the wood too long… Marvellous. One I would have loved to settle down with properly.

Other Paul John experiences:

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Armorik’s Bretan Whiskies – Breizh, Armorik Classic + Double Matured

The great thing about going to any Whisky industry event is an opportunity to try a range of whiskies – including those you would be unlikely to buy. Even better is when there is a chance to sample drams you would otherwise find challenging to encounter.

I first sampled an Armorik whisky from the Warengham distillery in Bretagne in June 2015 at La Maison du Whisky, Singapore. It was the Classic and while it didn’t compel me to add it to the final selection from that shopping expedition, it certainly was no disaster. Since then, I’ve had limited encounters and none with an opportunity to try a trio side-by-side.

For those unfamiliar with the brand and distillery, there is a 100 year distillation history in creating elixirs and other spirits, expanding into launching whisky blends in the late 1980s and single malts late 1990s.

So what did I trio at Whisky Live Singapore 2017?

For all, I was informed though providing No Age Statement (NAS), each was matured for a minimum of 5 years.

Breizh Blended Grain 42%

  • Nose – Young, lightly malty, sweet
  • Palate – Soft, hint of cinnamon, cereals
  • Finish – Minimalist, light spice

While fleeting, the impression was of something light, young, nothing offensive but nothing drawing me into it further either.

And what do the folks at the distillery have to add?

50% grain, 50% malt. The double distillation in copper stills is followed by an ageing in traditional oak casks, all matured by the climate with a particular climate in Brittany. Here are a few of the factors that now lead Distillerie Warenghem to offer this excellent Blended Whisky at 42% ABV. Breizh is a famous cousin of the WB, which was the first Breton Whisky. EUR 35.

Armorik Classic 46%

  • Nose – Lots of cereals, fruit, vanilla
  • Palate – Again quite soft, light, fruit, almost a hint of smoke, woodsy… reminded just a bit of a Japanese whisky matured in French Oak
  • Finish – Has quite a sharp spice that grows stronger – not in an unpleasant way but hard to ignore

It wasn’t quite what I remembered – quite a bit more approachable and I was informed they have ‘tinkered’ with the target whisky style to achieve just this easier to access element.

What do the Warengham folks have to add?

Cornerstone of the range, ARMORIK Classic comprises the best of our cellars in a highly refined edition. As a marriage of sherry and bourbon casks of different ages, it highlights the quality of the ageing on the Breton Coasts and the expertise of our cellar manager. This ARMORIK Classic comes in a non-chill filtered version, thus refining its aromatic qualities. EUR 41.

Armorik Double Maturation 46%

  • Nose – Light cereal, less of the spice, more citrusy
  • Palate – Soft, fruity, an almost apple sauce quality, woody oak
  • Finish – Spice burn with a light fruity finish

The Warenghem is double matured in Oak and Sherry casks, which would have lead one to believe even more of the Sherry character would have infused the whisky. Whereas it was a light touch.

What more do the producers of Armorik have to say?

Genuine symbol of the Distillery’s values, this Armorik highlights both the quality of its know-how and its attachment to the Breton land. In partnership with a local cooper, the Distillery designed unique Brittany oak casks. Armorik Double Maturation remains in them for many long years before being transferred into Oloroso sherry casks for a second maturation. Reduced to 46% and non-chill filtered, it pleases through its richness and elegance. EUR 46.80.

To be honest, the Armorik Classic was for me the most enjoyable of the trio. It was my introduction to this range and would remain the one I would suggest folks start if exploring whiskies from Warengham. You also have to appreciate their price point – they are very much keeping their whiskies in the affordable range.

What I would like to try next is something a little older, preferably cask strength… like their 12 year or 13 year. Let’s see if such an opportunity presents itself one of these years…

Interested in more French whisky experiences? Check out:

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Whisky Live Singapore 2017

So here we are in February 2018… and I’m only now getting around to sharing observations from November 2017 Whisky Live Singapore….  Why the delay?

Because I found it really hard to put into words that after such a terrific experience at Whisky Live Singapore 2016, the 2017 edition simply wasn’t for me. Which seems exceedingly churlish to admit when the organizers were kind enough to extend a day pass.

However rather than dwell on disappointments, let me focus on the key benefit of attending any Whisky Live anywhere in the world – the whisky!

There definitely were highlights and I captured a few fleeting notes on my sniff, swish (and mostly spit) experiences… And before you gasp in dismay about not savouring and swallowing, I firmly adopt a “Survival Guide” approach to explore to the max and over-indulge to the min.

There is a price to such a “speed dating” method. Notes cannot be complete and lack in-depth insights. Instead, they are just quick surface impressions… like a teaser… merely giving a sense of what might come… if only…

So with that caveat in mind, welcome to explore Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Whisky Live Singapore’s Collector’s Room picks for 2017:

  • Caol Ila 16 year (1969) 40%
  • Yamazaki 12 year (1996/2009) 60% (Whisky Live Japan 10 year anniversary edition)

Tasting notes to follow in the coming months… so stay tuned!

And what did I walk away with? You may be surprised:

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“O Canada!” Barrel of Sunshine Liqueur 30%

During my last trip to Canada, the kind folks from Shelter Point not only sent a bottle of their rather enjoyable single malt…. they also sent along this gem too.

However I was in a quandary… how to bring back when I was already over my allowance with the Shelter Point Single Malt, G&W and No 99 Red Cask?

Galloping to the rescue was a dear friend, more like a brother… who is also originally from Winnipeg… who’s mother just happened to be coming to Mumbai before the close of 2017. Shameless about getting interesting drams into India, she was asked… my folks dropped off this with a few other small goodies from Canada and this bottle made its way to Mumbai, India in time for our “O Canada!” celebration of Canadian whiskies.

Now I’m not normally a sweet liqueur kind of person… however one can always make an exception! And it seemed fitting to have a little treat with our desert after sampling our whiskies, quaffing our meal… to relax a bit longer…

So what did we think?

Barrell of Sunshine Liqueur 30%

  • Nose – Christmas in a bottle! Chock full of warm marmalade, sweet spices, curling maple candy
  • Palate – Sweet yet not cloyingly so, lovely to slowly sip
  • Finish – A light lovely dancing sweet spice remains

In short, we loved it! Overall there is a whimsical, lyrical quality to this liqueur. And it is an absolutely perfect sipping accompaniment to a rich chocolaty desert or Christmas pudding.

For those unfamiliar, Shelter Point makes artisanal spirits on the west coast of Canada… more specifically near Oyster River on Vancouver Island.  They either grow their own barley or source from other local farmers, passionate about creating quality something authentically local.

Here is what the folks over at Shelter Point have to say:

Perhaps if you saw the sunlight dance on the ocean waves near our farm, you’d wonder too: if you could bottle sunshine, what would it taste like? We thought about it and were determined to find out. Our answer: Sunshine Liqueur. Created in 2016, Sunshine is a small-batch, specialty blend of Canadian spirits and pure Canadian maple syrup coupled with a selection of natural extracts bursting with flavour. We call our signature blend, Orange Spice Maple.

Tasting Notes

Orange Spice Maple: This rich, copper liqueur combines the aromas of fresh oranges, sweet vanilla mandarin and honey maple. Its palate is smooth and sweet, with zesty citrus undertones and a warm finish.

What else did we have in our “O Canada” 150th Celebration?

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