#265 • Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask Strength

57.1% alc./vol.
Kavalan Distillery, Yuanshan, Yilan County, Taiwan.

I end the year with my best World Whiskey of 2014, the Taiwanese stellar Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask Strength.

The Kavalan distillery dates from 2005, and thanks to master blender de Penderyn, Jim Swan, they were producing their first batch of new make barely a year later. As early as 2009, the distillery was able to market an impressive array of special-finish bottlings, including port, sherry and bourbon, among others.

As there is nothing that beats a good metaphor, to illustrate the natural harmony that must be part of a good whiskey, most of Kavalan's expressions refer to terms of classical music. The present Solist is no exception, and it has been aged in sherry barrels and has been judiciously bottled with the strength of the barrel.

As the singer-songwriter, actor, writer and French diplomat Chahnour Vaghinag Aznavourian, better known to us as Charles Aznavour :

Music is the language of passions, but not all passions are worthy of being set to music.

Brown and deep red of an authentic sherry cask, or even almost a rum.

Classic nose of sherry cask, but with emphasis on fruits. We recognize the distillery through the whole thanks to these same fruits and cereals that evoke the Concertmaster.

Fruity and magical mouth. Sweet-dirty, orange, grapes, dates, toffee and spices. All still keeps the profile of the distillery.

Superb finish on oak, dark chocolate and espresso beans Caffe Macs.

A masterpiece of complexity. Many distilleries around the world should be jealous.

Note: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

#211 • Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish

40% alc./vol.
Kavalan Distillery, Yuanshan, Yilan County, Taiwan.

We will continue our comeback with another of these whiskeys from around the world, from a country where it is not customary to produce single malt, the Taiwanese Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish.

The Kavalan distillery began operations in 2005, and barely a year later they produced their first batch of new make under the watchful tutelage of Dr. Jim Swan, the master blender behind the Welsh distillery Penderyn. Only three years later, from 2009, the distillery was able to market a plethora of special-purpose expressions such as porto, sherry and bourbon, to name just a few.

Of these expressions, several, such as the Concertmaster and the series of Solist, refer to classical musical terms to illustrate the natural symphonic harmony that must be part of the composition of a good whiskey. Their barley is imported from Europe, and their spring water comes directly from the mountains around the distillery.

Today's traffic jam is called the Concertmaster, and its special refinement is that of port, in which this whiskey has completed its journey after having spent most of its maturation in American oak barrels.

As the French poet, playwright and prose writer so aptly put it Victor Hugo (1802-1885) so aptly put it:

Music is noise that thinks.

Dark rust, earth of hers, testimony of its finish.

Of course, port pulling on sherry as soon as we put our sense of smell to work. Dark berries with hints of passion fruit and mint. Slightly vanilla and earthy.

Fruity caramel and grape punch, accented with a metallic taste not less fun.

Rather short and marked by the impression of chewing gum balloon while licking a copper pipe.

Honest effort of the young Taiwanese distillery. They just have to lose the little taste of copper and crinquer the alcohol level a bit, and they will be able to achieve great things.

Note: ★★★★★