Review: Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask Single Malt Taiwanese Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Kavalan Solist 1.jpg
~6 years; Oloroso Sherry Cask
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kavalan (Yuanshan, Taiwan)

One of the most highly regarded bottlings of whisky, Kavalan Solist Sherry. Here we go!

Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask S081225011; Bottle 287/535

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

The nose has 2% North American milk (yes! and North American milk doesn't taste like milk elsewhere - it isn't stated without reason), lots of anise, licorice, star anise, fennel seed (very much - Kavalan is quite licorice-y, and this is no exception), milk chocolate, sherry, celery, oak, tobacco, currants, vanilla. The nose at cask strength is incredible - dilution changes it, but doesn't improve it - the components battle one another with more power at cask strength - the oak, the sherry, the licorice, the spice. It is pretty dense stuff.

The palate has lots of currants, milk chocolate, anise, fresh fennel fronds, clove, cinnamon, and a bit of a malty core. It's quite nice, really. At cask strength the malt and raisins feel so pure, fading to spice and prunes eventually. The finish is spicy with tobacco, clove, green tea, dried fruit, celery seed, and apple chips.

I generally don't love anise-y whiskies but this is growing on me quite a bit. It is marvelous...very complex, a bit weird, very good...a single cask, so these vary from cask to cask. Some, I hear are marvelous, but given all the licorice in Kavalan - I might not due them justice.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. Not a cheap one, most places. This was $216.

Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: S090123071 (bottle 434 of 514, 58.6%) 2015.08.17 13:34

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose is rich and woody, with light licorice, and lots of spices – from wintergreen to a rich, slightly edgy woody spice perhaps like licorice root. But lots more: roasted almonds and cashews, orchard fruit, peach and nectarine, walnut, and toffee. Slightly sweet on the nose; it’s balanced well. It holds itself together on the nose better than most cask strength single malts, with a rich oaky centre surrounded by all the spice, herbal notes, and fruit. Also, oddly, the earthiness is more prominent at cask strength compared to when it is watered down.

The palate has chocolate and lots of almond, sherry, and rich oak. It has lots of typical Italian mixed dried herbs, fresh fig, strawberry. A very rich mouthfeel, and great movement, with a rising set of flavours and feels toward the finish. Quite a bit softer than my cask.

The finish has date bars, wood char, dried spices, green tea, and dried apricot – and some dried thyme. The whisky has a bit of astingency akin to over-steeped black teas – not necessarily bad, but different - the whisky is built around this and it gives it a very interesting structure.

This cask is quite a bit different than my sharper, licorice-laden, and slightly astringent bottling above. This is less „winey”, more oaky, and has less spice and astringency. The cask above had some of the most licorice I’ve ever seen in a whisky.... (my tasting of concertmaster might have had more).

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. Not a cheap one, most places. This was $216.