This is almost heartbreaking. Kinda like a red wine stain on an expensive carpet, this is a case of so much beauty marred by a flaw that can’t be scrubbed out. I keep peeking around corners here, trying to find an angle from which I can appreciate this one more than I do, but sipped in a line-up of five other malts from the Far East this one simply fell flat.
Under the microscope here is a Kavalan Solist release, this time from a Fino sherry cask. Fino brings a unique influence to the maturing/finishing of malt whisky, being the driest of sherries. I’m thinking it’s probably the primary contributor to that nutty/caramel-heavy front note here. This particular expression is one that shows some incredible nuance and quality in terms of the pure spirit itself, but a nasty sulphuric note (again almost certainly leeched from the sherry cask) brings this one down from the stratosphere to barely clearing the treetops.
King Car’s Kavalan distillery is Taiwan’s contribution to the whisky world. The distillery, one I hold in fairly high regard, has been in operation for only a handful of years now, but, much like Kilchoman, 2005’s other distillery success story, is already hitting homeruns. A semi-tropical climate, key to a naturally accelerated maturation, is a prime contributor to the distillery’s success rate, as is a rather pliable and exotic spirit profile.
Back to the glass at hand though… while I really love some of the individual flavours and aromas herein (especially the tobacco and dark rye bread scents I’m getting), I’m struggling against the off note. I can’t go so far as to say the whisky is spoiled, but it’s simply not working for me. If you can get your head around sulphur (and many can), it’s all yours.
Nose: Heavy caramel. Almost equally heavy on a sulphur note, throwing this one right out of kilter. Still some highs, but they have a huge uphill battle after that brimstone low. Nougat (and here is where the fruity notes are buried). Rye bread, nuts and pepper. Oily leather and seasoned tobacco pouch. After some time in the glass it does get a bit creamier and the sulphur fades off a bit.
Palate: Struck match. Caramel. Some vanilla, and full circle to those tobacco notes. A little bit of pear. Unique flavour spectrum and not quite what I would expect from Asian malt meeting sherry.
After half an hour or so – when the majority of the sulphuric influence has dissipated – this would score extra points, but I won’t go there. I shouldn’t have to wait that long to make the drink more palatable. All told though…still a quaffable dram, and likely a very winning malt for those of the populace who find themselves immune to the influence of sulphur.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt