Monday, 18 March 2013

At Long Last, Kavalan, The Bourbon Cask!

Whisky: Kavalan Solist Ex Bourbon Cask Strength






Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask









Young Sauternes

Kavalan, at long last I was able to taste Kavalan.

Now some are probably wondering just what in the hell is Kavalan.

Kavalan is a Taiwanese, no age statement single malt.

Several years ago when I was first starting to get really serious into whisky, I'd read about this legendary whisky, scoring liquid gold status, in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible.  

A whisky scoring 97 points, from a little distillery, King Car, that almost no one had ever heard of.

I managed to put my hands on some tasting notes and all I could think was "that sounds good, no that sounds AWESOME!"

So I started looking around, first locally, then nationally and finally around the world, trying to locate any of their bottles.

NO ONE had them.  Not one single whisky store that I could locate had a bottle.

In fact about 99% of the liquor stores I contacted asked me what in the hell Kavalan was, and couldn't believe that some little distillery that they'd never heard of was making such massive waves in the whisky community.

The only place I could find that sold bottles was in fact from the King Car distillery in Taiwan, and there was no information if they'd ship internationally or not.

Even worse was there was no phone numbers to contact anyone by.

I start Googling and hunting down phone numbers for King Car distillery and ANYTHING that has a connection to Kavalan, or that might possibly link to Kavaln.

I then start calling these numbers, hoping that if anyone answers they'll speak English and be able to help me get my hands on Kavalan, any Kavalan.

I email, I call, I have issues calling internationally, calls go to lines that never existed, lines that no longer existed, people who don't speak English and finally I achieve success!

Someone who speaks English and knows about Kavalan.

However the news isn't good.

I'm informed that they're not currently exporting outside of Asia and have no plans to do so in the immediate future.

If I want a bottle I need to head to Asia, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, etc.

And while I'd love to visit Asia I have no plans to in the near future.

Over the last two years I have had friends head over to Asia and each time I hand them several hundred in cash with instructions to find me a bottle, any bottle of Kavalan and bring it back to me if possible.

Sadly they not being whisky geeks, they are unable to find any bottles of it.

Crap again!

Then a co worker, knowing I'm a whisky geek, informs me that one of the liquor stores we sell beer to has an awesome whisky selection and I should take a look.

I decide to follow them on Facebook and chat a couple of times with the owners, and they post whisky things that are of interest to me, but nothing that gets me panting.

I do alot of my own whisky importing so unlike so many people I know, it's no issue for me to go "I'll bring this in from America, or the United Kingdom, or where ever else the bottles may be if I want the bottle enough"

And that saves me ALOT of money as opposed to dealing with an extra couple layers from the source to me, each providing their own mark up.

And then about a week and a half ago as I'm sitting on Facebook I see something that makes me stop.


This liquor store is going to be doing a Kavalan tasting the following week. 

Seven drams for $30 plus a light dinner.

I'm there!

I let all my whisky friends know and I book us spots and then it's just down to the waiting game.

The big day finally arrives so my wife and I grab a ride down to the liquor store in the cab, running late, stressing and excited, but we wind up making good time.

When we get into the liquor store it's very nice.  Beautifully laid out with an excellent selection of whiskies at reasonable prices.


The tasting is held in a little Italian restaurant above the liquor store which is where we'll be having dinner after the tasting so myself, my wife, brother in law and sister in law grab a table and sit ourselves down, eager to get started.

Whiskies get poured from bottles that are roughly 200mls and very nice looking.

The gentleman who's running the tasting starts talking about the different whiskies, about how they got started importing Kavalan into the country (turns out he's one of business owners of the company) and about Whisky Live which sounds totally awesome and talks a little bit about each of the whiskies.

So we wind up trying a whole range of whiskies from Kavalan: King Car Conductor, Kavalan Concertmaster, Kavalan Single Malt, Kavalan Soloist ex Bourbon Cask Strength, Kavalan Soloist Sherry Cask Strength, and Kavalan Soloist Vinho Cask Strength.

Even more cool is that we're one of the first people in Western Australia to have a chance to try these whiskies!

The whiskies are excellent!

However I immediately encounter a problem.

At most of my whisky tastings I take notes on the whiskies, but between trying to focus on the speaker and even more the aromas of food coming out of the kitchen I'm having a very hard time tearing apart the whiskies. 

The whiskies are excellent, but to tear the whiskies apart it's not the ideal environment.

Then we reach the cask strengths.  Bourbon Cask, Sherry Cask and Vinho Cask.

Beautiful and even though I'm not able to tear them apart right there I know I'm going to be going home with a bottle of each.

After the tasting we all head back down to the liquor store where I grab a 196ml bottle of the three Kavalan cask strengths, running a wee bit over $200 AUS.

Tonight I decided to crack open the Bourbon cask.

Now the first thing you have to remember is that Kavalan is No Age Statements.  That means they don't care about age.  So none of this 12 yr old, 21 yr old, etc.  It's about taste.  It's also about climate.  Whiskies in a tropical climate like Taiwan will age much quicker then a colder environment like Scotland.

So like I said I crack open my 196ml bottle open, and get ready to sit down to a lovely little evening.

I pour the whisky into my trusty little glencairn and get ready to savor a whisky that I've spent two years chasing down.

A lovely golden color with thick sexy legs that cling to the glass and then oh so slowly slide down into the liquid from which it came starts off the evening.

Can you see me grinning?

Time to nose!

Thick vanilla and coconut start off the nose which isn't too surprising considering the whisky has been aged in barrels that had preciously held bourbon.

The nose continues onto toasted oak, cinnamon, nutmeg and then it gets really cool!

It goes tropical and super fruity!

Mangoes, pineapples, oranges, bananas, and lots of cream. 

Wow that is awesome!  I'd heard that they had some really tropical whiskies, but to be honest I'm not sure how much I believed it.

I believe now.

Time for a taste!

Wow, lovely, soft and sweet with the vanilla and the coconut immediately starting off the whisky, but oak, cinnamon, nutmeg  and then hints of oranges.

A medium length drying finish with oak and vanilla finishes off this whisky, with the vanilla lingering.

All I can say is "SO WORTH THE WAIT!"

I paid something along the lines of $75 for 196mls of this whisky and I don't regret it.  Pricey, sure, but I was sitting there thinking that once I had a chance to sit down and tear the whisky apart that I might wind up regretting the purchase, however two hours after finishing this whisky I'm still left grinning and thinking to myself "can't wait to tear apart the Sherry cask and Vinho casks.

That being said I'm REALLY hoping that this whisky will become more popular over here in the hopes that possibly the price might go down if it takes off.

If you get a chance to try a Kavalan cask strength, DO SO!!

Nose:          23/25
Taste:         23/25
Finish:         21/25
Balance:      22/25

Overall:       89/100

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