I am a huge fan of the Solist brand from Kavalan. In fact, one of the single greatest malts I’ve ever tried in my life was an earlier edition of this very same expression. That bottle is inextricably tied to some very special memories now, but I can’t help but mourn it nevertheless. More than that, though, I wish I could step back in time and kick myself for not buying more than one bottle of it when I had the opportunity.
If you’ve not tried these cask strength sherry bombs you’ll likely have no idea as to just how over-the-top rich and expressive they can be. Thick and gargantuan, in fact. Unquestionably some of the biggest drams I’ve drunk. I compare my contemporary Solist Sherry experiences with first meeting Aberour a’bunadh all those years ago.
If you’re looking for some sort of metrics or comparables in the Scotch whisky world the closest approximation I can give you to a dram like this would be a 40 year old sherry-matured Longmorn or GlenDronach or something akin. And even then, the flavours won’t align with expectations. Kavalan matures very rapidly in the subtropical climes of Taiwan, making time less a factor in the spirit’s evolution than ambient temperature and cask breathability. It makes for an instantly identifiable profile, but sometimes forgoes nuance and complexity in favour of bombast, uniqueness of character and a juicy, spicy profile. Either way…I love it. But then again, I wasn’t looking for ‘Scotch redux’. I’d much rather a drink that carves its own path.
This particular bottling is actually a less than spectacular batch, but even so it scores this high. Neat stuff, and utterly singular.
*One final note: I did try one batch (read: single cask) of this whisky that was a right mess. Sulphuric offnotes and a lot of bitter unpleasantness. Such is the nature of single cask releases. However…it also serves to illustrate that it’s always worth going back and double checking a brand from time to time. Fortunately that one bad experience was an anomaly.
Nose: Rich syrupy dark fruits. Oily dried fruit. Coffee and dark chocolate. Orange zest. A touch of licorice. Black cherry. Fudge. Molasses. Strong exotic spices. A hint of hoisin. Moist fruitcake. Dark soil. Prunes. Very ‘jammy’, as we like to say.
Palate: Chocolate. Jammy, stewed fruits. More of that licorice note. Big, wet woody notes. Cold espresso. A hint of Sen-sens and maybe Fisherman’s Friend cough sweets. Coffee grounds. Again…thick jam notes and more on that fruitcake, or Christmas cake, or whatever you want to call it. Long, long, finish with some neat fruits at the back end.
Thoughts: Give it time to breathe. Oxygenation – both in the bottle and the glass – brings this one new dimensions. Worth giving it some time.
– Images & Words: Curt