Kavalan Solist is a line of cask strength, single cask whiskies. They are each differentiated by the cask they were matured in.
Sounds pretty standard, right? So standard, I honestly didn’t know what to write about here. Maybe about Taiwan and the Han migration, perhaps something about having a Taiwanese friend and then making an ass of myself on purpose, probably have a lot of people take it the wrong way and then have to apologize and simultaneously state that comedy is dead…
Well, that was a horrible way to start it, let’s get to what I’m saying: Kavalan has differentiated themselves from just another line of single cask, cask strength whiskies. We have two such offerings today.
First up, Kavalan Solist Manzanilla Cask. It’s cask strength, single cask whisky. What makes it different, beyond it using Kavalan spirit? Well, they specifically call out it’s a Manzanilla Cask. Which I’m not used to.
Manzanilla Sherry is close to Fino sherry. According to what I’ve read, it is a Fino sherry. However, it’s made in a specific region, with salty notes and is compared to Manzanilla tea. So there’s a good chance I’ve had something like this, though my understanding of the few Fino sherry whiskies I’ve had is low.
So I’m excited. Let’s see how Kavalan Solist Manzanilla Cask tastes, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Vintage: July 16, 2010
Bottled: September 26, 2015
Cask Type: Manzanilla Sherry
Cask Number: S100716005A
Number of Bottles: 521
Colour: 5YR 5/8
Nose: Orange, caramel cake, plain doughnut, cranberry
Lots of yeast/flour notes. My wife notes that plain doughnut note, which after going back and forth in a loving, respectful relationship, it turns out those aren’t sugar glazed. We later doubly proved this, beyond my trust in her, by buying some.
Lovely orange and cranberry notes as well. It overall works, though, as I’ve said before, there”re elements here that I love, however it can be more sherry than whisky. Which can be jarring.
Taste: Limeade, oak, cardamon, white cake, caramel
There we go. More oak, spices, caramel, and some acidity makes it a whisky again. Little more rough on the taste than the nose though.
So you take some things, you lose some things.
Finish: Orange, lemon pie, hard caramel candy, rough wheat, dry apple
Hot finish. Really rough. Something I’ve found in Kavalan whiskies, due to them being hyper-aged in a tropical locale. They develop some complex notes, however, there can be some roughness. Water evens it out a bit, though I would have prefered a few more months, if possible.
Conclusion: Rough around the edges. I think they need to play around with the yeast or something, because we’re seeing great nose and taste, with some rough aspects that aren’t going away. Compared to other hyper-aged ones, that hurts it.
However, it is tasty. It’s a big orange bomb with doughnuts. I’m not a big orange fan, though it takes this note and runs with it, mixing it more, so I’m not turned off this time. What bugged me was the rough, hot finish.
Kavalan Solist Port Cask ‘KavaFan Single Cask Release’ was released as part of the enigmatic KavaFan group, which from what little I can find (Google didn’t work out this time), is a speciality group that gets first offer on Kavalan whiskies that are older than the standard.
Maybe. Don’t quote me, as I said, I couldn’t find out the specifics on this. Just that this is an older than normal ex-Port Cask Solist.
Maybe it’s the Illuminati. Who cares. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: No idea
Vintage: July 6th, 2009
Cask Type: Port Cask
Cask Number: O090706042A
Number of Bottles: 204
Colour: 5YR 2/6
Nose: Cocoa, violets, cinnamon, brown butter, honeydew melon, baked apple
Lots of fruit on the nose. It’s very much taken on the spice, cocoa, and cinnamon aspects of the port. So I’m in a happy place with those.
To be completely honest, I’m a sucker for port casks for these very reasons. Water brings out more fruit then needed though. I wanted more dank Xmas notes.
Taste: Plum juice, dry apple, mustard, caramel, most of the ginger in the known world
Very heavy on the ginger flavour after water. I’d frankly say water blasted any subtlety left in the dram, which is too bad.
Before the water, there was a fruit forward, spicy mixture. It’s a little off, though as I had more I like the savoury/sweet aspects they were playing with.
Think of it more like a chutney.
Finish: Brown sugar, red liquorice, sweet wheat, cinnamon, dry apple
Finish goes where I wanted it to. Lovely Autumn notes. And this time water delivers more of that, with some dry aspects to balance out the sweetness.
Conclusion: Quite the interesting dram. Certainly nice to see what happens when a Kavalan is given additional time in the cask. And especially nice to try a port cask one.
What I will say is that it’s not perfect, though what it does right it does really well. For instance: Great finish, lovely balance on a unique taste, and an inviting nose. That said, water turns the nose to a fruit heavy thing, the taste is marred by too much ginger which amps up, and the finish could be longer.
I’ve read this was the 1st KavaFan bottling so perhaps others will be better. Maybe. Who knows.
World Whisky review #314-315, Taiwan review #9-10, Whisky Network review #1444-1445