Floor 5 of the Kavalan warehouse is packed with their best sherry casks. The story begins with sultana, Brazil nut, vanilla pod, dates, and chocolate macaroons. The palate has ripe fruit, cherry, date, coffee, candied orange, chocolate, mocha, fruit pastilles, and some pepper, ending with bitter coffee notes. Cutting the strength provokes more citrus, though it reverts back to mocha eventually. Outstanding whisky and definitely the best of the bunch. (499 bottles)
This is the pick of the bunch, the whisky equivalent of Fountains of Wayne; an effervescent dessert whisky, which from the first aroma to the final finish is a consistent mix of vanilla, coconut, and overripe banana, sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon.
Kavalan 10th Anniversary Bordeaux Margaux Wine Cask-Matured Single Malt, 57.8%
Taiwanese Whisky | $283
Beautiful dark amber in color, this has a fabulous nose of lush red-berry fruits, blueberry, red apple, blackcurrant, Fabbri strawberries, peppercorn, wet slate, dry oak, wood spices, and smoked meats. The power of the muscular whisky matches the majesty of the wine cask: berry fruit flavors seep from the thick caramel mouthfeel amid an explosion of pepper at high strength, but with water added this still has incredible range. NT$8,800
Surprise, surprise. This is like the school's best pitcher, who then steps onto the football team and throws for a game-winning touchdown. This is a whole new side to Kavalan. Remember Faith No More doing “Easy”? Having out-sherried and out-bourboned us with kickass rock-n-roll whisky, Kavalan goes for gentle and croony, with vanilla and honey. The coup de grace? Apple pie and cream morph into licorice and menthol. Exquisite.
Rich and intense nose, with paradise cake, honey, dried apple, plum, and crème d’abricot. The mouthfeel is dry, nutty, and fruity, with a silky consistency. The cask strength is more noticeable here, but as it dissipates, there is some late complexity of plum skin and coffee bean with wave after effortless wave of flavor lasting for minutes on end. Finish is hot and nutty, with moist coffee grains. (499 bottles)
The Kavalan flag is unfurling fast. The whiskies are making it Stateside, and they're improving from a very high base. A couple of degrees stronger than previously, this is far richer than any wine cask-matured whisky has a right to be. This is huge, with a tropical nose of mango, melon, and papaya, and a hint of dustiness. The palate is astounding. Rich, sweet, and rounded, it coats the mouth with an intense mixture tempered by burnt toffee and cocoa. Stunning.
Kavalan is Taiwanese whisky from the King Car Company, and the progress its whiskeys are making is truly remarkable. With humidity roughly the same as Speyside — high — but the temperature more than 20° Fahrenheit higher, maturation is on fast forward. This is just 4 years old, but it’s a monster mix of kumquat liqueur, tropical fruit, blackcurrant, and strawberry and cream candy. Later on some eastern spices, especially turmeric, bring it all back home. Remarkable. €70 Currently not available in the U.S.
Damson jam, herbal undertones, banana leaf, scallions, and clean, fresh oak notes. Burst of red fruit; raspberry, strawberry, rosehip, and sherry with lips tingling from the PX spices, citrus enters the fray, then chewy butter toffees. Wonderful complexity and flavor trajectory, it rounds off on a strawberry note. It is great to find a heavyweight whisky that is perfectly approachable at cask strength. The finish stays juicy, with vibrant spices. (502 bottles)
Kavalan Ex-Bourbon Cask Strength Single Cask, 57.8%
Taiwanese Whisky | $175
Delicately complex. Dried vanilla, pineapple, toasted coconut, tangerine, and cream. A kiss of honey and polished oak on the finish. Quite lovely and very versatile; it would make a delicious pre-dinner dram. (Julio’s Liquors and Loch & K(e)y exclusive)
This has a seductive nose of mango, kiwi, dried tropical fruits, rich oak, silky caramels, and milk chocolate-covered cranberries. The dynamics of this cask-strength whisky play out handsomely, with an opening gambit of warm berry fruits, peaking with emphatic spices, and ending with a reflective phase of butter toffee, mocha, and Ovaltine. A dash of water encourages clove-studded orange flavors and preserves the long spicy finish.
This dark, walnut-colored dram delivers the fabulous first-fill sherry cask characteristics we love: raisin, mixed peel, fruitcake, marzipan, Brazil nut, jellied fruits, and nutmeg. So wonderfully thick and chewy that you need to resist the temptation to pick up a knife and fork. It imparts dark weighty fruit, blackened oak, cooked apple, and a twister of peppery turmoil. Add water liberally to unlock figs, dates, and plums.
Each cask of this nicely packaged malt is selected by the distiller, and so there is considerable variation between batches. This one is a step up from last year's releases. It's slightly weaker, but the nose has firmed up into a delightful mix of fresh juicy grape and a spicy dustiness. Tastewise this takes an amazing journey from plummy, sweet fruit up front to a slow dominance of dry sherry at the end. The finish is longer than before. Excellent.
Kavalan King Car 40 th Anniversary Single Malt, 56.3%
Taiwanese Whisky | $521
This stirred a primeval urge in me for a good steak: bramble, blueberry, ripe Victoria
plum, Morello cherry, exotic spices, and a hot and heavy perfumed scent from the
select wine cask maturation. Sweet berry fruit—though mouth drawing—and a
delicious chocolate note, then it lashes the tongue with an intense peppery spice that
made me double-check the ABV, so dilute liberally. Savory finish with charred
The mark of a good distillery is consistently producing 85 points-plus whiskies, and with this batch Kavalan's going into double digits. If the distillery has a weakness, it's that sometimes it overstates its case and makes even the Aussies look subtle and nuanced. Not here. This is a delicious dessert whisky, with vanilla and toffee in abundance and some sugar candy. But having made its case, it steps back and is surprisingly gentle. Kavalan with subtlety? Scary!
If you didn’t know what it was, you’d swear this was an old and venerable big sherried whisky, and it takes some accepting that it’s still a kitten. The clues are there: hints of immature green fruit and reedy barley, and the finish is sweet and soft, with none of the astringency of an old wood-influenced malt. But it tastes wonderful: rich, sweet, and grapey, with gooey plums and juicy raisins. A sprinkling of pepper dust reins everything in perfectly. €155 Currently not available in the U.S.
Clove-spiked orange, melon, pomegranate, cherry lozenge, and aniseed. Cherry, Strawberry Laces, growing spiciness, ginger, pepper, almost effervescent fruit jamminess. Later, citrus peel, vanilla. Finish has vanilla bitterness and fresh green herbal tones. Water keeps the fruit but boosts those spices on the finish. (532 bottles)
An effusive offering of dark fruits: cranberry, blueberry, and black currant. This is a beautiful marriage of the spirit and the port cask finishing, showing applesauce, aged oak, macaroons, and dry aromatic spices. Black currant holds sway on the tongue, yielding to caramel, ground ginger, a second burst of juicy blueberry, with a hot finish evoking strips of dried tropical fruit and flashes of ground pepper. Rewarding and flavorsome.
King Car is the name of the Taiwanese company that owns the Kavalan brand and this lavishly packaged single malt is its standard bearer. It's not hard to see why. More subtle and complex than some earlier bottlings of Kavalan, this has an exotic fruit, cream toffee, and soft banana nose, and has bitter orange, dark chocolate, and pepper on the palate. It's rapier-sharp, clean, and drying rather than sweet.