Posts Tagged With: Taiwan

Tasting Notes: Kavalan – Concertmaster

Kavalan – Concertmaster

Whenever a new business is set up, it’s founders will have big aspirations. When Kavalan was set up in 2005, it was no exception. Their distillery even reportedly has a sign outside stating that it (and by extension, Taiwan) is “The New Homeland Of Whisky”. A pretty bold statement. It may not have come as much of a shock to them 10 years later then that their Solist Vinho Barrique was awarded World Whiskey Of The Year in 2015, but it did to a lot of other people. Proving that you don’t have to rely on an age statement, Kavalan have been focussing strongly on flavour, and this is no more evident than in their Concertmaster release. Branded as a port cask finished whisky, this young whisky (it has to be right?) has been part of the mainstay Kavalan expressions, and is also matured in wine casks ensuring that it pours in a rich, mahogany colour at 40% ABV.

 

Nose

Wow. There are some strong and deep flavours in battle for your attention here. Redcurrants and other red berries are the first to poke through and there’s a strong oak body to this. It has quite a firey boozy nose too, particularly down at 40%, but it is complemented by the sweetness of toffee/caramel and dark sugars.

 

Taste

Once it’s in the mouth, it is surprisingly soft textured and a lot less boozy than the vapours were letting on. It’s a lighter, softer melee of flavours too with summery red fruits (strawberries and raspberries) at play, offsetting the oak flavour (which is still quite present) and a hint of spice towards the end. After reading about the whisky in 101 Whiskies… I also can’t seem to avoid that liquorice note afterwards.

 

Finish

…and the fire is back! The alcohol returns to the flavour profile and warms you up pretty quickly. That oak spice is there again but the lasting flavour is that of raisins. Lots of raisins in fact. The final lingering flavour is a really satisfying juicy note.

 

Verdict

Well, the notes that I have read talk a lot about the whisky’s balance, but in my experience, this was more about a tussle between robust flavours that each then break free from the complex combination as you enjoy the drink. It’s a battle between the extreme influences too, as the sweetness of the port and wine casks are offset by a savoury, spicy backbone from the oak. Considering its youth, (maybe 5-6 years old) the complexity of the whisky belies its years, and maybe it’s that younger, fresher alcohol that’s stirring the ingredient flavours so thoroughly. Overall, a very fruity whisky which could easily venture into liqueur territory if it wasn’t for the oak body and boozy burn reminding you that it is a single malt. That Art Deco packaging is pretty cool too, albeit this was courtesy of a Drinks By The Dram sample only. Definitely a great experience and certainly one to try if you can (and before you die, of course, finding itself at #59 in one such list)!

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The world has spoken in 2015…

…and it has said “Ho ta lah!” – or at least that’s the closest phonetic spelling I can find for the Taiwanese equivalent to cheers!

 

Yes, the World Whisky Awards for 2015 were held recently to determine the best whiskies in the world across a multitude of categories and they have awarded their top honour of “World’s Best Single Malt Whisky” to the Taiwanese distillers of Kavalan, for their Solist Vinho Barrique expression. And anything described as “bourbon-infused milk chocolate” would probably get my vote too. Its a single cask release, making it rare, and is bottled at cask strength, so its certainly not pulling any punches at 58.6% ABV, so keep an eye out in the auction rooms, because this stuff is nowhere to be seen on the shelves!

 

The full round-up of winners can be found here (http://www.worldwhiskiesawards.com/2015/all.html)  but here’s a list of the overall winners from each category:

 

Overall winners:

  • World’s best single malt: Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique (Taiwan)
  • World’s best grain whisky: Darkness! North British 18 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish (Scotland)
  • World’s best pot still whiskey: Redbreast Pot Still 15 Year Old (Ireland)
  • World’s best American whiskey: Thomas H Handy Sazerac Straight Rye (USA)
  • World’s best blend: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blended Whisky #1 (Scotland)
  • World’s best blended malt: Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 Year Old (Japan)
  • World’s best scotch blended malt: Wemyss Malts Velvet Fig (Scotland)
  • World’s best flavoured whisky: Master of Malt 40 Year Old Speyside Whisky Liqueur (Scotland)

 

International categories:

  • Best African blended whisky: Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish (South Africa)
  • Best African single malt: Three Ships Single Malt 10 Year Old (South Africa)
  • Best American single malt: Balcones Texas Single Malt (Texas)
  • Best Australian single malt: Sullivan’s Cove French Oak Cask Matured (Tasmania)
  • Best European single malt: Mackmyra Iskristall (Sweden)
  • Best Irish blended whiskey: Tullamore Dew Phoenix (Ireland)
  • Best Irish single malt: Teeling Single Malt (Ireland)
  • Best Japanese blended whisky: Suntory Hibiki 12 Year Old (Japan)
  • Best Japanese single malt: Suntory Yamazaki 18 Year Old (Japan)

 

Scottish categories:

  • Best Campbeltown single malt: Longrow 11 Year Old
  • Best Highland single malt: Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18 Year Old
  • Best Lowland single malt: Highland Harvest Single Malt Sauternes Wood
  • Best Islands single malt: Ledaig 10 Year Old
  • Best Islay single malt: Ardbeg Kildalton
  • Best Speyside single malt: Benriach 16 Year Old

 

This seems like another turning point in the story of world whiskies. Comparing this year’s result to last year’s 2014 winner – Sullivan’s Cove French Oak Cask, from Tasmania, Australia (which still won best Australian dram this year) – it seems that not only is the whisky world wide open, but it is thriving and excelling in its craft. That and French wine casks are going to be even more sought after in the coming years.

 

Some people may challenge the validity of these types of awards, but given that 2015 has seen whisky guru Jim Murray awarding his whisky of the year to Yamazaki’s 2013 Sherry Cask release and has previously awarded his ‘New Whisky of the Year’ to Kavalan, there seems to be a trend forming. For collectors this might be a call to start diversifying your purchases, whereas others may see this as a time to get behind the Scottish and Irish founders of the dram, but whichever your persuasion, you can’t deny that this is a good and vibrant time for whisky makers and appreciators worldwide.

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