Nantou “Omar”, Bourbon Type, 2016 Release

Nantou is the other Taiwanese distillery; Omar is the name of their single malt; this particular release is presumably all from bourbon casks. Omar is a relatively new brand—just about a decade old. Lest you think this is one of my more esoteric reviews, it is actually available in the US (though this is a review of the 2016 release). I’ve had a low-level curiosity about Nantou/Omar for a while and so when Michael K. of Diving for Pearls asked me if I was interested in a sample, I jumped at it (read his review here).  The current release can actually be found for what is a fairly low price in the current single malt whisky market—a place in New York lists it for $40; to be fair, the median price seems quite a bit higher and in Minnesota the lowest I can see on Winesearcher is twice that at the local Total Wine. Still, quite a bit cheaper than your average Kavalan cask which is probably not very much older. Will it be as good as the average Kavalan cask though? Let’s see. Continue reading

Kavalan 8, 2006, Peaty Cask

It’s been a while since my last Kavalan review; more than three years, actually. That was a review of one of their Solist sherry casks. To be honest, I’ve not really kept up with Kavalan over the years. Their whiskies, at least the ones available in the US fall into two categories: affordable but unremarkable; and good but very expensive. And I’ve more or less given up on buying expensive whisky. And it’s also fair to say that it’s not just Kavalan that I’ve not kept up with—I’ve become rather disconnected from the the whisky world in general. But that’s another post for another day. Here is an unusual Kavalan: one of their “Peaty Cask” releases. I *think* this is regular Kavalan spirit matured or finished in an imported cask that had held peated whisky. If not, someone will be around shortly to correct me. And, no, this is not a new release—it came out in 2015 or so. I purchased a sample with a view towards possibly purchasing a bottle and then promptly forgot about it. I think I’ve been threatening to review it for the last year or so. Anyway, here it is now. Continue reading

Kavalan Solist, Sherry Cask S090610018B

Kavalan Solist Sherry
I am about to tell you a fascinating story about baggage. Try to contain your excitement. It has a pedagogic purpose though: so that you may be protected against the error I almost made.

We flew through Hong Kong on our most recent trip to India and I was intrigued on the way in to see what the duty free selection at the airport there might be like. It is pretty dire pretty much everywhere else in the world at this point: mostly overpriced, marginal whiskies in fancy packaging for travelers whose inhibitions and judgment have been dulled by the exhaustion of international travel. I was hoping there might be some interesting Japanese whisky available. As it happens, the Japanese whisky selection was slim and there was nothing of interest available on the Scotch front. But they did have pretty good prices on Kavalan Solists. The bourbon Solists were probably about $80 US and this sherry Solist was about $105. As the US prices make these seem reasonable I decided to get a couple of bottles. And to make my life easy I decided to get them before boarding our flight back to LAX on the way out. Which would have been a terrible mistake! Why? Read on! Continue reading

Kavalan Solist, Sherry Cask S090122079

Kavalan Solist, Sherry Cask S090122079
Let’s do a heavily sherried whisky for Christmas. Kavalan did very well at the most recent Malt Maniacs awards and that pushed me to finally dig out this sample purchased earlier this year and review it. I’ve quite liked the few Solists I’ve tasted so far (far more than the overpriced and overrated standard range) but of those I’ve only found a fino cask to be truly exceptional. Will this regular sherry cask be as good? Well, if it’s only as good as the last one I reviewed I won’t complain too much. Let’s get to it.

Though this doesn’t sport a prominent age statement on the bottle, it was distilled in January 2009 and bottled in April 2015. That makes it a 6 yo in absolute terms—what that translates to once you account for climate, I’m not sure, but the cask probably lost a lot more to the weather than 6 year old casks in Scotland or Japan do.  Continue reading

Kavalan Solist, Fino, Cask S060814011

Kavalan Fino Solist

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.)

Continue reading

Si Hai/Four Sea (Los Angeles, July/August 2014)

Four Sea ExteriorThis is the penultimate food report from our recent Los Angeles trip. This meal slot was to have been occupied by a return to one of our old favourites, Chung King, but after the havoc wreaked on our system earlier in the week by lunches at two Thai restaurants, Chengdu Taste and Hunan Mao (not to mention leftovers at night) we decided to go for something milder. And so we washed up at the San Gabriel outpost of Four Sea/Si Hai for Taiwanese breakfast (the original is in Hacienda Heights).

(By the way, I’d noted in my review of Chung King last year that they didn’t seem to have a lot of business at weekday lunch and had speculated that they must be doing much better at dinner and on weekends, given the high rate of turnover in the SGV for places that aren’t popular. For what it’s worth as we drove by Chung King on the way to Si Hai at noon on a Saturday there didn’t appear to be any more action there (no one outside, not many cars in the adjoining parking). Can anyone who’s been recently comment?)

Continue reading