So we return again to World Whisky Wednesday and to Taiwan with the Kavalan Classic Single Malt. While some time ago I reviewed the Kavalan Concert Master (one of my first whisky reviews upon moving to Ireland), I was not too impressed with the dram. Something about it seemed a touch off, so hopefully the Classic can do much to ease my worrying.
Kavalan Classic Single Malt is the flagship offering from Kavalan, a now standard expression from a distillery known for its peculiar cask maturations and finishes. The Classic takes, as you may expect, a more classic route with the maturation; ex-bourbon and ex-sherry. The main thing to remember here however is the location of the maturation; Taiwan. Maturing in Scotland and Ireland is a fairly straight forward affair, while over the years’ temperature and humidity may have risen they remain fairly constant year round. This means we get to see a long maturation, and the casks truly do slumber for anywhere from 3 years to multiple decades, seeing an angel share (alcohol evaporation) of 2% per year. In Taiwan they experience 12%. It would be even higher, but the high humidity keeps the loss down a touch. This high temperature, high humidity means the casks pseudo speed the maturation, drawing a lot more from the casks in that short period of time. Of course you cannot keep whisky in an environment like that for too long, so we tend to see younger whiskies coming from the region than you would see from colder areas. The result is quite different to your average northern drop, and takes inspiration from the tropical area.
The nose starts a bit slow and sluggish, but a wee time to breathe and some encouragement allow the whisky to stretch. Light caramel drops onto peaches we prepare next to fragrant rose bushes and a blossoming cherry tree, a glass of grape juice at our side decorated with lime and mint. Once we finish with the peaches we place them carefully on our desert board; raspberry next to star anise, heavy orange mango laced with liquorice, fresh water melon chunks floating in some lemonade drizzled with honey, more natural sugars as opposed to artificial and the nose is joyous about it. After a touch we turn to the sweeter of the tropical fruits, with rambutan coming through, hot strawberries picked in the sun, a touch of jack fruit and a finishing bowl of mango and passionfruit sorbet.
On the palate it is prickly, the mouth struggling to cope with such hot climate fruits in a cold country, but we see firm peaches and pears come through before we bite into wizened yellow apples, beautiful small apricots, a scattering of goose berries and unripe kiwi fruit before we have another sip that could be a glass of sauternes from how smooth and golden it feels going down. The palate is long, soft brown sugar simmering on the stove with a scattering of dried peach and kiwi skins, a touch of apple cider fading to slightly wooden mouthfeel as our palate misses the hot fruits and climate they came from.
Better than the Concert Master seems unfair to say, but it does feel to be the more rounded and approachable whisky. The flavours move with one another much better than in other Kavalan releases, and indeed better than some recent releases from Scotland and Ireland. The best part about this whisky is that I would recommend to both old and new whisky drinkers, it’s just immensely easy to enjoy. And often that’s all you want in a dram.