Review: Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask Single Malt Taiwanese Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Kavalan Solist Bourbon 2.jpg
First Fill Bourbon Barrels
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kavalan (Yuanshan, Taiwan)

This whisky, similar to the Fino cask I just reviewed, is Kavalan matured in an ex-bourbon barrel, bottled straight from the barrel.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask R061113041

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2012

The nose, indeed, has rich bourbon aromas - and is immediately complex, one of those noses that you know you can find much in if you take time to look. Brilliant oily corn, bourbon nuttiness, sour raisin, buttery vanilla pudding, earthy oak, nutmeg, dried mango….

 The palate has coconut, pear, peach crumble, corn, dried apricot, dried mango, banana cream pie, icing sugar dusted pastries (though this is not overly sweet) – and it’s not even very hot at 56.3%, and brilliantly syrupy.

Big and sweet finish. Some spice – and deep caramel toffee. Drying in the way that makes your mouth water a bit, which always makes you want to keep sipping.

Once again, not that great watered down, like the Fino cask - but I like it quite a bit more.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $225.

Review (2020)

  • Batch: B141217065A (173 bottles) 58.6%

  • Bottling Code:  2019.07.03 13:45 CA

  • Bottling Date: 2019

So, this whisky is just over 4.5 years old. It yielded only 173 bottles, so that’s an evaporation rate of about 10.4% per year! My last sherry cask from Kavalan sat at about 5% per year – but it is a bigger cask (which means less evaporation) and may have been in a part of the warehouse with different maturation conditions.

The nose here is creamy, filled with apricot, peach, custard, spice, vanilla, corn husks, sharp and rich baking spice, and dried durum pasta. The palate is sharp, rich, sweet – with a light grainy character, more dried pasta, dried stone fruit, fresh apricots, and woody spices. The custard is just so nice at cask strength – creamy and big, backed by woody spice and alcohol heat. The finish has a custard character, stone fruit, apple cider, and a bit of tobacco – too. Some nice woody notes on the end – sandalwood, I think.

Really an enjoyable dram, but not a transcendent cask or quite as good as the above. Still…very good.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, based on $180.