If you like heavily sherry’d whiskies and are willing to shell out at least a little bit, you probably are familiar with Kavalan. A Taiwanese distillery whose whiskies have won every award there is to win, unless it’s region specific or about 15 years or older drams.
The distillery uses all kinds of casks, and for every type there are some really high scoring examples. However, apart from the supposedly insanely good Fino casks, they sherry casks are what they are most known for.
If you look back at the Malt Maniacs Awards, although discontinued still one of the only awards that matters at least a bit, they’ve managed to end up high on the score board since 2013, with ending up Supreme Champion in 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and category winner in 2013. There was no competition in 2019, and they scored gold in 2020.
I got my grubby hands on a bottle here and there, and saved up these two reviews to be combined and see what’s what.
Kavalan Solist 2008-2014, Sherry Cask S081219016, 57.8%
Very big and juicy sherry. It starts of very fruity with plums and peaches. It becomes a bit more rich after a while with a hint of sulfur. Hints of matches and vegetables, with spices and fruit still. Not much room for the spirit, I think.
The palate is very dry and very similar to old fashioned sherried Speysiders. Dry and fruity, with background hints of spices, oak. The sherry tastes like it had some age to it, instead of just being boozy fruit juice. Combined with the high ABV and warm climate maturation it makes for a solid dram.
The finish continues down the same road, and makes me think of old Glen Grant again. Very solid at imitating old style Speyside whiskies. A long and balanced sherry finish, with wood, fruity and spicy.
Kavalan Solist, 2008-2019, Oloroso Sherry Cask S081217040A, 58.6% – OB for La Maison du Whisky & The Nectar
Massively sherry’d too, with not too much obvious fruit. Aged balsamic vinegar and a lot of nuttiness. Bitter notes with date stones, almonds, plums and oak.
The palate is dry on the arrival, not overly sweet and very intense. The bitter notes have increased compared to the nose, with almonds and fruit stones. Cherry, date, balsamic vinegar and rancio. A touch of red pepper too.
The finish is quite gentle compared to the palate, with more of the same notes. There’s a little bit of charcoal in there, that wasn’t there before.
I figured to give my opinion in one go for both of them. Both are excellent whiskies, but you have to keep in mind that you’re not going to be dissecting the spirit and the distillation process when you analyze this. These drams are mostly about the cask and fast aging in a hot climate.
Generally that puts me off a little bit, but in this case it is just too well done to not like it, or even take it down some notches. Gorgeous stuff, this.