Kavalan Solist Peaty Cask 54.8%

In fashion, there is a little something called the “show stopper” which closes all the prancing and posing with panache and much applause. In our NAS whisky night, there was no doubt this Kavalan Solist Peaty Cask was the hit of the night!

Over the years I’ve become a Kavalan convert. From a slightly disappointing start with the Concertmaster I picked up in Taipei to most recently a fantastic quick zip through their full core range at Whisky Live Singapore, there have been a few stunners along the way… particularly from the Solist Sherry Casks.

So when I spotted this Peaty Cask at Singapore airport, it simply had to be acquired and fit perfectly into our original club’s NAS themed evening. What makes it particularly interesting is the spirit isn’t peated… instead the peat comes from a cask that previously held a peaty Islay whisky, bringing a more subtle approach to peat dimension.

Kavalan Peaty Cask No R091214006A Bottle No 043/137 54.8%

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Citrus lemon spice, bitter almond, oranges, apricots, subtle curl of smoke or perhaps a whiff of leather, vanilla
  • Palate – Peat, chocolate, coffee, oily and well rounded, fruity, cinnamon
  • Finish – Fabulous! Long, lightly peated with a hint of ginger spice

The initial reaction was “Aaah… nice!” Then as we became more acquainted with it, “Oh! Really nice!” which then became “Very very good!” and overall degenerated into “Yummy!!!”

Overall our conclusion that while age plays a role, it is completely possible to have a complex, interesting and worthy dram when the whisky in question is one like this Kavalan.

Here’s what they have to say:

  • Nose – Rich in honey, toffee, bees wax and coconut. With water, more of the classic tropical fruit notes especially golden kiwi comes through. Very delicious and refreshing…
  • Palate – More toffee and butterscotch bring a peaty taste but rather subdued and more earthy than maritime. 
  • Finish – The finish is quite long with peppery notes of red chili. 

It is a perfectly balanced and quite complex – a beautiful whisky!

What else did we try in our NAS evening?

Other Kavalan’s explored include:

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Exploring NAS whiskies – Guillon, Oban, Arran + Kavalan

Sure folks still bemoan the days where “No Age Statement” whiskies were few and far between in the world of single malts, however NAS whiskies are here to stay! And frankly, some of them are rather good.

So it was rather apt that one of our retired whisky club members for his birthday (of years we shall not say!) turned to a quartet of NAS whiskies… which turned out not to all be whiskies… as there is a new avatar of ‘malt spirit’ which joins the fray.

Guess which one of our 4 bottles wasn’t a whisky after all?

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Krishna Collection – Kavalan Solist Sherry (2008) 55.6%

For a few years now, Kavalan from Taiwan has done rather well in the world whisky awards department – with good reason.

As the Malt Maniacs 2016 awards were released there was a lot of chatter in one Mumbai whisky WhatsApp group. Kavalan had clearly dominated – sweeping with the ‘Supreme Champion’ award, Ultra premium, Premium… with an insane 6 Gold awards, 13 Silver awards and 4 Bronze awards.

As Keith Wood shared the Malt Maniacs report, they “received 23 different cask entries of Kavalan; 2 bourbon, 3 port and 18 different sherry casks. At this point I must add that Kavalan themselves only entered the permitted 3 bottles, all others were from private cask owners.”

I thought of this development as I brushed off notes from a sampling of a 2015 Malt Maniac entry… here is what I found…

2016-04-25 Kavalan Solist

Not the whisky sampled – another Kavalan Solist Sherry (OB)

Kavalan Solist NAS Sherry Cask S081229026 55.6% 08 Bottle 421/527

  • Nose – More saccharin than honey, sweet prunes, dry fruits, heaps of dark chocolate
  • Palate – More mellow, sweet spices, cinnamon and oak bark, teasingly playful, peppers dipped in sugar
  • Finish – Very sweet finish, exceedingly long and lovely

What makes this one interesting is that it is vibrant, not mature and bursting with character. It may not be the most sophisticated whisky you will find, but it has a certain something that draws you back.

That’s just what Kavalan has accomplished with its Solist series – each single cask has a distinctive character. It may be in a similar family yet distinctive – take 2010’s casks S1001200358 vs S1001290048. All Solist single casks have unique qualities and can clearly stand on their own too. That cannot be said of all single casks.

Other whiskies sampled that evening with Krishna included:

Other whiskies previously sampled with Krishna:

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Whiskies shared… India’s own Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula

Each year Krishna Nakula makes his pilgrimage to Mumbai to battle with customs to get his annual Malt Maniacs samples into India.

Occasionally when he makes these trips, he brings a few remaining drops from previous years to enjoy with special folks.

Last year he generously introduced me to the gorgeous Glendronach grand dames and a stunning rare Karuizawa.

This year, he simply outdid himself, sharing from the 2015 collection:

All of these whiskies were a treat! And go to show that with a good whisky, even just a few drops can say a lot…

20151121_Rare Malts

Other whiskies sampled with Krishna:

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Ladies Choice – Kavalan Solist Sherry (2009) 57.1%

Our “Ladies Choice evening for the Bombay Malt & Cigar gentlemen closed with a Taiwanese tipple – the Kavalan Solist Sherry.

(www.tripfolk.com)
(www.tripfolk.com)

Shruti Sutwala returns as our last Whisky Ladies of Mumbai guest reviewer… 

With a background in marketing, Shruti took the plunge to transform her passion for travel into a profession. Her company, TripFolk, curates unique travel experiences with like minded travelers, tapping into local bloggers, travel writers, wine and food enthusiasts, art curators and more….. 

Given that Shruti travels extensively (plus has a partner who shares her whisky explorations), she can always be counted on to have a good whisky bottle (or more!) kicking around in her cabinet.

She’s particularly fond of more complex whiskies with a wide variety of profiles. Shruti has introduced us to Japanese whiskies like the yin yang Nikka Blended and the subtle Nikka Coffey Grain.

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Here is what Shruti has to say about the Kavalan Solist Sherry:

I had my first exposure to Kavalan Soloist thanks to the whisky ladies and oh my god – did I fall in love with it. The “Soloist” is their premium line of whisky and of course the better one. This time we tried the “Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask S090102020 Bottle No 258/511 57.1%.”.

As the name suggests its sherry and more sherry all over from colour (dark wood) to nose (raisins & cherry) and flavour (fruity, spiced, honey). It has quite a complex experience & finish which is rather unique & different from Scottish Malts – probably because of the Taiwanese weather conditions & ageing process.

For me this dram is a perfect post dinner drink, it is plain yummy and would be the perfect ending to a wonderful evening. 

What else did we sample in our “Ladies Choice” evening for the BMC gentlemen?

Other Kavalan tasting experiences:

For more related updates and activities, check out:

Whisky Ladies Choice – Treating the BMC Gentlemen…

Last year, the gentlemen from the Bombay Malt & Cigar club took it upon themselves to treat the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai to an evening of Irish whiskies and cigars.

This year, it was our turn to return the favour.

We debated a range of different approaches and finally decided on a theme of “Ladies Choice.” And what pray tell did that mean to us?

We wanted to share with the gentlemen some of the most memorable whiskies we sampled together as a tasting group. They may not be the world’s best whiskies but they would be our “Choice” – ones that stood out in some kind of way.

We went about it in a democratic manner and voted, tallied up the responses to create a “short-list”, then began the efforts to source these whiskies.

Our approach was a bit flexible, in some cases we knew it would be impossible to source the EXACT same whisky. What worked was finding something from the same distillery or similar category.

The whiskies were literally sourced from around the world involving travel, friends of friends and even last minute acquisitions…

What made it into our final “Ladies Choice” list?

JapanAkashi Red Blended Whisky 40%

  • In truth we had several Japanese whiskies in mind however the Akashi was accessible and a refreshing departure from the expensive exclusive impossible to find Japanese single malts, so figured why not!
  • It also made for a perfect ‘appetizer’ whisky to get the evening going…

Sweden – Mackmyra Vinterdröm 46.1%

  • The most enjoyable peaty Mackmyra Svensk Rok 46.1% captured our attention with its clean, minimalist yet smoky qualities.
  • So when our Swedish whisky lady went on the hunt over Christmas for something distinctly different from the distillery, this limited edition “Caribbean love affair” avatar was her pick!

IndiaPaul John Single Cask #1844 60.5%

  • The Paul John Select Cask Peated Batch 1 “OMG bacon!” made many Whisky Ladies swoon for more during our Paul John evening… we definitely wanted to include a Goan single malt, preferably a Select Cask or Single Cask…
  • Thankfully Michael from Paul John distilleries was able to oblige our interest – literally hand delivering this single cask a mere two days before our evening!

France – Kornog Taouarc’h Pempved 14 BC 46%

  • Kornog’s whisky from Bretagne will forever be known in our group for the comment “How did you go from being a perfect gentlemen to getting my bra off like that?” (WL on Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46%)
  • Alas the Trived 10 BC was no longer available so we took a gamble on the newer Pempved 14 BC

TaiwanKavalan Solist Sherry Cask S090102020 57.1%

  • There was no doubt a Kavalan was going to make the cut…
  • By a very wide margin, the Solist Sherry Cask topped the charts with the most votes from all our Whisky Ladies tasting experiences. So… it simply HAD to be our ‘showstopper’ of the evening!

Somehow not one Scottish whisky made it into the list. Not a single one. It wasn’t deliberate. It was simply how the votes panned out.

But that says something about how the whisky world is going…

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Whisky Live Singapore – King Kavalan

Kavalan has been sweeping global awards – garnering top World Whiskies Awards,  dominated the Malt Maniacs Annual Awards 2016 and many more.

So what did I have the pleasure of perusing in Singapore?

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Kavalan Classic Single Malt 40%

  • Light, fresh nose, smooth on the palate with a slightly sour bitter quality
  • Was like sipping a blend of bourbon, sherry and wine

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Kavalan Concertmaster 40%

  • What can I say about this one? Tried it many times… nothing wrong but also nothing exceptional… reminded me that while pleasant, simply doesn’t float my boat whisky wise
  • Ex-bourbon cask, matured for 2-3 years with a Port finish

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Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak 46%

  • Nose was sweet honey delight, bright, uncomplicated
  • While clearly not sophisticated, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the ‘watered down’ version… having previously only been exposed to the ex-Bourbon’s cask strength cousin

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Kavalan Sherry Oak 46%

  • Lots of sherry berry nose, round soft on the palate with a bitter, dry finish that stays
  • Surprisingly enjoyable, nice long finish – much more than anticipated

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Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon B100924087A Bottle 008/200 59.4%

  • Sweet and sassy on the nose, tipping to the softer bourbon notes, palate has substance and the finish is well rounded

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Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask S1001290048 Bottle 102/489 57.8%

  • Familiar territory with this one! Rich, sherry, berry, bursting with flavours, lots of liquorice in this one with a great big sweeping finish

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Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Cask FI1007070264 Bottle 441/575 57%

  • I wanted to go “Wow!” but found this almost too dry and bitter for my taste, an interesting experiment and quite distinctive but not an easy dram

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Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique W120727102A Bottle 213/231 57.1%

  • Much more my style – some of the rich fruity elements yet more subtle than the sherry, a nice spice, dash of nuts, even a puff of smoke

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There is little doubt that in many circles Kavalan is indeed ‘King’ of whiskies at the moment. Even better – it remains accessible and even in the more affordable category versus others who have reached such heights.

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Whisky archives – Kavalan Concertmaster + Solist Sherry Cask, Ardbeg Galileo, Dutch All Rye

I was clearing through some old drafts and happened to find one from an evening I hosted in February 2013 – a few months before I started chronicling our monthly tasting adventures on Everyday Asia.

It was from an email that contained no tasting notes, merely a thank you for the whiskies contributed and the two guests who joined our session.

The evening featured:

  • Nameless Indian single malt (later confirmed as McDowell’s Single Malt)
  • First encounter with Kavalan Concertmaster
  • Contrasted with Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask
  • Dipped into the latest (then!) Ardbeg release – the Galileo (1999/2012) 49%
  • Closed with the Dutch All Rye

Years later I couldn’t remember the Indian single malt we tried… just that it was neither Amrut nor Paul John. Surprisingly, I recently found a note that it was McDowell’s Single Malt?

Concertmaster (Whisky Lady)

However, I distinctly remember being soooooo excited to try the Kavalan Concertmaster – given my efforts to track it down during a trip to Taipei. And being equally disappointed til we contrasted it with the Kavalan Solist… an experiment that was repeated years later with the Whisky Ladies.

I also remember the story behind Ardbeg’s Galileo… a whisky released in ‘celebration’ of Ardbeg’s space experiment yet not actually containing a drop of galactic wandering whisky. Instead a mix matured in ex-Marsala wine and ex-Bourbon casks leaving a smoky sweet impression.

It was also one of our early encounters with European whiskies and one of our few samplings of a Rye whisky.

Our guests were two well-known figures in the Indian spirits industry who added more merriment to the mix… Overall leaving an impression of world whisky fellowship of great people and good drams!

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Singapore “Speed Dating” Whisky…

Singapore may be expensive as far as whisky purchasing is concerned, however it never fails to deliver a new discovery.

There are some terrific night spots to nip into for a whisky flight (or two) – The Auld Alliance, Flagship and Quaich.

There are always unique offerings at La Maison du Whisky.

Even Changi Airport is no slouch as a spot to sample something novel with its range of whiskies from everyday duty-free to airport exclusives to a special “I have way too much money” collection upstairs…

So what did my August 2016 Singapore trip have in store?

It began with a pilgrimage to La Maison du Whisky

I stopped by early, well in advance of 6 PM ‘sampling’ time to pre-select options more or less under SG$200, less readily accessible elsewhere, not a repeat of any previous drams and could spark conversation from our fellow samplers back in Mumbai.

After a bit of careful thought, Priscilla sprung into action and began pulling out a few… checking some possibilities that I declined… to come up with a diverse shortlist. My sampling companion arrived and we began our final selection process by “speed dating” each whisky with quick short nips.

Puni Italian Trio

We began with a trio from Italy. Yes… Italy. We compared (right to left):

Puni Nova Bourbon Cask 43% 

  • Matured in American and European oak casks, initially seemed just grains, flowers, honey and vanilla… relatively standard on the palate.
  • In short, dismissed as not terribly interesting… but after the others, we found ourselves drawn back… then it really began to grow on us… for a young whisky, it has something quite enjoyable and attractive for a lighter dram.

Puni Alba Limited Edition 43%

  • Limited edition, uses barley, wheat and a locally grown rye matured from six months to three years in oak barrels that previously contained Sicilian marsala, Pinot Noir from South Tyrol and Zibibbo from Pantelleria.
  • And the result? Interesting, definitely interesting, but also oddly schizophrenic… simply didn’t seem to know what direction, here there or where?
  • Was it a light romp or storm the bastions? No balance between the sweet and spice elements like a cocktail with too many ingredients.

Puni Alba Marsala Islay 43%

  • Matured in Marsala and Islay casks, initially attracted attention – quite different with its pronounced cloves, range of fruits, peat, tobacco and nuts.
  • However like a one trick pony, we kept waiting for more… then reached back to the Puni Nova as the more drinkable dram!

Bruichladdich 1990 24 year

Next up was Bruichladdich 1990 24 year 56.5%

  • I was pre-disposed to fall in love… after all this was a special bottle for LMDW from a distillery that produces a rather interesting range of whiskies…
  • Eager anticipation, I took the first few whiffs…. and sip… And had the opposite reaction.
  • Harsh cloves cinnamon no softness… thin rather than layered and robust
  • Perhaps it needed time to air, a few drops of water or simply more consideration possible in a quick sample however didn’t pass the taste test… and in fairness, not all whiskies do… some simply require patience and attention not possible when “speed dating”

W+M Sherry + Sansibar Islay

We then moved on to two independents without the distillery disclosed:

Wilson & Morgan “Highland Heart” Sherry Cask Malt 2006 43%

  • As you would expect from a sherry, lots of delicious stewed fruits, a distinctly winey quality yet accompanying this was also a richer nutty dimension that brought you back for another nosing again and again
  • On the palate it was mellow, smooth and seemed to have many more layers than we could properly discern in a small taster… overall left you with the impression of an eminently drinkable dram

Sansibar Islay 8 year 52.5%

  • Sansibar are new independent bottlers from Germany and a first for me!
  • Unlike some who disclose minute detail about the cask, here the approach is different sharing only that it comes from a single cask, aged 8 years (2007-15) with 330 bottles…. and the rest? Up to you to guess!
  • We quickly pronounced it a fine specimen of an Islay malt
  • Compared it with the distillery official bottling – no doubt which WE preferred!

Wolfburn

Wolfburn 46% Batch #2

  • As a new re-entry, this distillery has been on my radar and considered in London with rather honest advice “It is still quite raw” enabling the Teerenpeli to win that round (I’m ever so grateful!)
  • From 7.03.2016, Distillery Manager Shane Fraser shares “On the nose you’ll find fruit and malty aromas, with a hint of peat. On the tongue, sweet and nutty flavours are present, which coat the palate and leave a very slight pleasant flavour of smoke. It is a joy to drink – I hope you enjoy every drop.”
  • This one was thrown in as a courtesy to let me try as a bottle was not available for purchase. Yes there is fruit, nuts, hint of peat, quite intense with lots of promise but not there yet – a bit ruff, gruff and certainly not balanced.
  • However… Let’s just say I’m looking forward to seeing what more comes… though can safely skip this one…

Taylor

We then shifted our attention to the Americas… In this case, to potentially obtain a 3rd American whiskey as counterpoint for two recent acquisitions direct to Mumbai from Denver, Colorado…

For this ‘brief’ we explored a duo from Colonel E. H. Taylor, part of the Buffalo Trace stable:

  • Small Batch 50% – What a change to shift gear to a rye! I’ll admit I’m neither a bourbon nor rye aficionado, however for this style, was a rather good example.
  • Barrel Proof 63.6% – Packs a serious wallop! As in galloping head on into all senses, firing all cylinders. Yowza!

Singapore Airport's Whisky Wall

Next up Changi Airport…  A few highlights / lowlights include:

  • Suntory has launched outside of Japan The Chita… Quite reasonably priced, alas it was not the exquisite Chita Single Grain 12 year I picked up in Tokyo years ago. Easy to pass…
  • However the Kavalan selection was tempting with a Sherry cask strength for less than SG$100. And a new Kavalan Peaty Cask – matured in a cask which previously held a peated whisky for SG$175.

What made the final cut for purchase?

You will just need to be patient til one or more whiskies sampled make it into a focused tasting session.

  • Sept 2016 – Wolfburn Batch #1 makes its way via another original tasting group member
  • Jan 2017 – The Italian Puni Alba was a hit with the original tasting group!

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Kavalan Solist Bourbon Cask (2010) 58.6%

Of all the whiskies we planned to sample, the one I was looking forward to the most was the Kavalan Solist.

Having recently tried the astounding intense burst of flavours of the cask strength Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask No S1001200358, the bar was set very high. Even recalibrating expectations for a bourbon rather than sherry cask, I was primed and ready for a treat!

Kavalan Solist Bourbon

Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask No B101124001A (Bottle 102 of 230) 58.6%

  • Nose: Much brighter, almost floral with sweet honey, citrus fruits and a bit of banana thrown in for good measure… one could even suggest banana bread… as it continued to open up
  • Palate: For some it was a bit rougher than preferred for others quite smooth, largely on the sweeter side without spice or smoke, some slightly nutty elements
  • Finish: Slight spice and back to sweetness…

Now cask strength whiskies are not for everyone… however this Kavalan still clearly has the Taiwan climate advantage of more concentrated aromas and flavours in just a few years.

Just for those wanting to partially de-code Kavalan’s cask  no B101124001A

  • B = Ex-Bourbon cask
  • 10 = Put into a cask in 2010

Was it a stunner like its Sherry Cask cousin? Honestly no.

But what I must say is that by releasing so many single casks, Kavalan is really showing the world the range and variation found between casks.

Other Kavalan tasting experiences:

What else did we sample?

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