Sunday, August 28, 2011

Two Whiskies From Taiwan

It's been a while since we reviewed a whisky out of the stronghold of Scotland, but today, let's have a look at two whiskies from a distillery much closer to home. Unfortunately, these are nearly impossible to find, but you can get a dram or two in Singapore, if you are lucky.

The whisky in question is from Taiwan, and is starting to make some real waves in the whisky world with a string of stellar releases. The distillery of course is Kavalan, located in the town of Yi-lan, which is just a short drive away from Taipei. The parent company of Kavalan, the King Car group, was founded in 1956, but the first whisky from the distillery was only bottled in 2008, meaning the distillery was only probably set up during the new millennium. What has followed has been a success story that has well and truly announced Kavalan on the world whisky stage. Its accolades include top grades from Jim Murray's Whisky Bible in 2011 (95pts for the Fino Sherry expression), 5 silver awards in the 2010 Malt Maniacs Awards (including the 2010 Best Sherry Cask award for the Kavalan Solist (58.2%) in the Premium Category) and a Gold medal in the San Francisco Spirits Awards 2010. In essence, accolades like that vindicate Kavalan's rising prominence.

The two expressions on show today are the Kavalan Standard Single Malt expression, and the Kavalan Solist (58.6%). So let's have a look if these live up to the hype!

Name: Kavalan Single Malt Whisky
Distillery: Kavalan (Taiwan)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age Statement: Nil
Alc/Vol: 40%

This is the entry level Kavalan single malt, with no age statement. Let's see how it tastes...

Nose: Sweet aroma of raisins, fresh malts, clear and interesting vanilla and some raw nuttiness and sherry. Pleasant and clean (21)

Taste/Palate: Dark chocolate and creamy entry. Builds to a fruity mid section with bananas, apples and jambu! Hints of mango and malt as well. Ginger Candy and Pickled Ginger, salted peanuts and oak (22)

Finish: Barley plays main fiddle with loads of maltiness, with the sweet notes of fruits like mangosteen and mango. (21)

Overall: Great stuff, nicely balanced and definitely worth a try (21) 85/100

Found at: Fine Spirits at La Maison Du Whisky

Name: Kavalan Solist Single Malt Whisky Sherry Cask
Distillery: Kavalan (Taiwan)
Type: Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
Age Statement: Nil
Cask No: S060626038
Bottle No: 579/599
Alc/Vol: 58.6%

The second whisky, sadly is not available in Singapore, but SGwhisky was lucky enough to get a bottle from a mate in Taiwan. This one is the Kavalan Solist, not the same single cask bottling that won the accolades at the Malt Maniacs Awards, but let's see how this one goes.

Nose: (Without Water) Prunes (fresh and dried), vanilla, marzipan, dried nuts, strong red tea, grapes, dried apricots. A touch of rum (anejo rum) can be picked up too
(With Water) Far more nutty, hint of icing sugar, Iced Milo and condensed milk as well as dark chocolate (22) 

Taste/Palate: (Without Water) Notes of sweet and spice, dried prunes, extra sweet coffee, develops into sweet fruits, but overall very aggressive.
(With Water) With water the aggression really tones down, leaving the whisky to really showcase some lighter notes. Entry of rich espresso, more spice, with pepper, star anise, ginger, mixed with a syrupy sweetness, raisins and chocolate milk. Good stuff! (23)

Finish: Long lasting and very pleasant. Coffee, more dried fruits, warm orange ginger, loads of prune, and chocolate. (22)

Overall: A real winner in my opinion. Complex and pleasant. The only problem is that it is too aggressive without water, it could do with a bit of watering down, though the watering down did affect the richness of the nose (22) 89/100


  1. I like your post. I appreciate your work. It's not expensive.
    I like Johnnie Walker Black Label Whiskey.

  2. Hi Benjamin, i'm a die hard fan of Scottish and Japanese single malts, particularly single cask strengths. I caught up with Kellie Du the brand Ambassador for Kavalan. Albeit not my preferred style, its not at all a bad dram Taiwan. worth giving it a try as its inexpensive.