Posts Tagged With: Wine

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.



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.



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.



…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.



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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Tasting Notes: Yamazaki – Distiller’s Reserve

Yamazaki - Distiller's Reserve

Yamazaki – Distiller’s Reserve

It is widely recognised that Japanese whiskies are becoming more and more world-renowned, particularly so since the end of 2014 when Jim Murray surprised the critics by awarding his whisky of the year for 2015 to Yamazaki’s 2013 Sherry Cask. At the start of 2014 though, Suntory released two new whiskies into the market in an attempt to offer a new, varied entry-level dram that could be distributed around supermarkets – The Distiller’s Reserve (one for Yamazaki and one for Hakushu).

These new bottles may be classed as single malts because they’re from a single distillery but actually represent a blend of 3 different expressions from Yamazaki. The Distiller’s Reserve is a no-age-statement blend of a wine cask expression, a sherry cask expression (which Jim clearly loves) and a mizunara cask expression (i.e. Japanese oak). The ages of each ingredient varies but is believed to be somewhere between 8-10 for the sherry and mizunara casks, and anywhere up to 18-20 for the wine cask. With an unfavourable introduction to Yamazaki but the promise of something new and a lot of flavours (including an award winning component) the WU boys were intrigued to try this out…

ABV: 43%


M: Clean, slight fruit, vanilla, a little alcoholic burn and a little oak.

S: *prickles nose* – very sting-y. Pine and citrus notes with some underlying vanilla.


M: Sweet, strawberries and a light sherry finish.

S: Tastes like strawberry cheesecake…Sherry comes through along with an oakiness.


M: Almost a grain-like finish, with red fruits but it all disappears too quickly.

S: Disappointingly weak…some embers to help warm you up but not much.


M: The three different whiskies that make up this dram are all present in its taste and are nicely balanced. It might just be my preference (or because I bought it) but I quite like this Yamo – particularly more than the other lads – and I could spend a while with this dram enjoying the different flavours, if they didn’t end too soon.

S: A decent dram, but unimpressed with this “triple maturation” process and a £40+ price tag. Enough positives though to recommend it.

J: Couldn’t really find too much to write home about here. Its a fairly sweet whisky, but its not really blowing my mind.

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