Welcome to KWM Whisky Advent Day 5!
Day 5 of KWM Whisky Advent 2015 has us sampling a single malt from southeast Asia, specifically the island nation of Taiwan. Kavalan Distillery was the vision of Mr. T.T. Lee, the founder of the King Car Group, a large pharmaceutical / agrifoods business. Taiwan is one of the world’s hottest whisky markets, and it only took King Car four years to get the project rolling from concept to distillation. The distillery was built in Yilan province south of Taipei over a 9 month period in 2005. The founders vision was to create a world class single malt whisky in Taiwan, he spared no expense, sought the most respected experts and they achieved their aim in a stunningly short period period of time. It doesn’t hurt that Taiwan’s steaming hot climate supercharges maturation, in just three years they can loose up to a third of a barrel and develop flavours that take 10-18 years in Scotland or Ireland. In 2010, just four years after the whisky first started flowing from Kavalan’s stills, the distillery started racking up awards. This year Whisky Magazine Awarded their Solist Vinho expression World Whisky of the Year.
Taiwan is a very mountainous island, it has 286 peaks over 3000m, and a range of rugged mountains separates the distillery from bustling metropolis of Taipei to the north. The drive from Taipei to Yuanshan, the town nearest the distillery, used to take two hours, but a tunnel through the mountains cuts the journey down to an hour. It is a beautiful and easy drive if you are ever in Taipei, and a curiosity if you’ve ever visited a whisky distllery i Scotland. The distillery is named for the indigenous people who once inhabited Yilan’s “Kabalan plain”. The King Car Group built the distillery here because of the plentiful pure waters that flow from Snow Mountain and Central Mountain, but also because of the location’s proximity to Taipei. Kavalan receives over 1,000,000 visitors a year!
Kavalan produces a range of whiskies, but their most sought after are those in the Solist Range, consisting of: Solist Bourbon, Solist Sherry, Solist Vinho (Whisky Magazine World Whisky of the Year) and atop the range Solist Fino. Today we are sampling the Ex-Bourbon Oak 54%, who’s closest approximation is the Solist Bourbon. Each of the whiskies in the Solist Range has a general style, but as they are always bottled as single casks there can be quite a lot of variation. While they will be quite similar, the Kavalan Bourbon 54% we are sampling here is not the same as the one we are currently stocking in the shop. But then the Solist Bourbon we have in stock at KWM is always changing as each Bourbon Barrel Kavalan bottles will yield little more than 100 bottles. Chances are every time you buy a bottle it will be a different single cask.
Kavalan Solist Bourbon - – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: very fresh, honeyed and floral, French crepes with powdered sugar and lemon juice; hell we are going with a full breakfast theme here, cantaloupe and honeydew melon, canned pineapple, marmalade and mango chutney; Palate: very creamy and honeyed with some warming but not sharp spirit; the malt emerges late in the first sip while the floral tones and fruits hit quickly in the second; more melon, pineapple and orange rind (not quite as sweet as marmalade) and hot candied ginger and cinnamon sticks; it becomes doughy with more fruits and creamy oak; Finish: long, coating and creamy with fading floral malt and tingling spices; Comment: if this is your first taste of Taiwanese single malt and you’re not yet converted, I shed a tear for you! - $137.99
Stay tuned for Day 6 of KWM Whisky Advent Tomorrow