The new’ish Taiwanese distillery Kavalan have been the next new sensation in the whisky geek world for a while now, usurping that role from Amrut, who in turn had taken it from Japanese whisky more generally. Kavalan’s whisky is not yet in the US but is said to be coming any day now. As I’ve noted before, I’m always a little sceptical about the level of excitement about many new distilleries, especially those from non-traditional whisky producing regions of the world. I’m never sure how much of the excitement is driven by the novelty and how much by actual quality. The charitable reading of the former impulse, I suppose, is that some people do genuinely want to support the early efforts of new(er) whisky producing regions and sustain them as they move to maturity.
But the whisky I am reviewing tonight is not one of Kavalan’s ballyhooed expressions (those would be the cask strength Solists). This is the entry-level single malt at 40%. Still, it’s won gold medals at a couple of spirits competitions/awards (yes, yes, I know they’re mostly dubious).
This is the first of three Kavalans I’ll be reviewing in succession.
Kavalan Single Malt (40%; from a purchased sample)
The official website does not describe how this whisky is made or matured, but it does note that the colour is “passionate amber”. I hope it wasn’t a fling with E-150 that ignited this passion.
Nose: Quite expressive with caramel, apricot and a rum-raisin note leading the way; a little bit of leather too. Quite bourbony after a bit with a mix of a slightly yeasty sourness and sweet caramelized fruit (bananas). With a drop of water everything comes together nicely.
Palate: Doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the nose. It’s somewhat flat and watery and there’s none of the punchy, vibrant fruit of the nose. There’s an indistinct sherried sweetness which then turns into something sharp and slightly spicy (clove oil). With time gets both more watery on entry and more metallic in development. More fruit too now as some of the apricot from the nose finally shows up. But where’s the tropical fruit that some people say is their signature? Water doesn’t do anything for the palate–well, maybe it takes some of that metallic edge off.
Finish: Medium. That sharp/spicy note from the palate lingers and blurs into something metallic and astringent. Water seems to bring out some wood.
Comments: The nose had me hopeful but the palate and finish betray the youth. Still, it’s very drinkable and not bad at all for 40%. I wouldn’t pay more than $25 for this, but considering it goes for more than £50 in the UK I rather doubt it’ll be priced below $25 in the US.
Rating: 78 points. (Low-mid 80s for just the nose.)