I’ve reviewed a bunch of Kavalans before and not found any of them to merit the hype emanating from some quarters. They’ve ranged from mediocre to very good, but not even the one I’ve liked the most so far seemed to me to come close to meriting the very high asking price. That would be the last Solist Fino cask I tried (cask S061127001). That was an EU release and since then the Fino has arrived in the US and is going for anywhere between $300 and $400 (and doubtless for more at stores that don’t show up online). It’ll be interesting to see what their success will be like at this price point. Will the high price be enough to turn it into a status item for the Christmas season or will we see it discounted eventually? Time will tell, I suppose. But I’ll be able to tell you a little sooner than that what I think the cask this sample is from is worth.
(This is not the current US release either, by the way; this was released in 2012.)
Kavalan Solist, Fino, Cask S060814011 (58.6%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Bright citrus to the fore—lemon, mandarin orange—with the stickier sherry notes rising up behind—caramel, light maple syrup, honey. Quite a bit of salt too. With more time there’s roasted malt and a bit of powdered ginger and the wood begins to make its presence felt as well. With even more time the citrus is mixed in with apricot jam and there’s a bit of chicory as well. Very nice indeed. Water brings out more lemon and honey. A little bit of toffee/shortbread too now.
Palate: Starts out with a cartload of fruit and it’s much sweeter than the nose had led me to expect—stops just a bit shy of being cloying and that’s because the citrus perks back up as I swallow. More wood on the second sip and the chicory from the nose shows up as mocha here and brings the powdered ginger with it. Not much change with time. Let’s see what water does. Brighter on the palate too with water, and the wood is less present now. A bit of pepper maybe.
Finish: Long. The fruit continues to brighten (citrus) and then the polished wood I also find in a lot of Amrut comes out—this must be an artifact of aging in hot climates with a lot of evaporation. At the very end the sweetness comes back out again. As on the palate with water at first, i.e brighter, more citrus, but then the sweetness comes back with a bang.
Comments: Very good indeed, and my favourite of the Kavalans I’ve tried. If spending $300-400 on a bottle of whisky is not a big deal to you then you will certainly not be disappointed in this bit of dessert in a glass—especially if you like older Balvenies (and you should certainly buy this over the Balvenie 30). Me, I would need some greater depth and development to think the price worth it. It does taste much older than it is (quite a bit less than 10 years old, probably) but it’s not as fully integrated as very old fine Scottish malts and nor does it have the earthy funk of long aging in wood. I guess what I am saying is that it lacks complexity. Would I think this if I were drinking it blind? I dunno.
Rating: 90 points.
Thanks to Sku for the sample!