Monday, September 25, 2017

Review - Kavalan Peaty Cask

This peaty version from the Taiwanese distillery of Kavalan has been bottled especially for UK specialist retailer The Whisky Exchange. It was previously only available at the distillery but a few single casks were made available to whisky retailers around the world. With no natural peat in Taiwan, the flavour has been created by maturing in casks that have previously held smoky Islay single malts. Cask #029 for The Whisky Exchange has yielded just 104 bottles. Each has a natural cask strength of 52.4% ABV and costs £150. It is available to purchase here via the TWE website or at their London store in Covent Garden.

Kavalan is located in Yuanshan to the south of the city of Taipei. It is owned and produced by the King Car Corporation, which is Taiwan's biggest food and beverage manufacturer. The distillery was built in just eight months in 2005/06 and is one of the most technically advanced in the world.  Kavalan has copper stills that were constructed in Scotland and the distillery has an annual capacity of approximately six million bottles.

The name of Kavalan is taken from a group of indigenous people who once lived in the Yi-Lan County where the distillery is located. The whiskies have claimed many prizes in competitions around the world since they were first released back in 2010. They also have a state-of-the-art award-winning visitor centre at the distillery.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has plenty of sweet aromas present - honeycomb, golden syrup, white chocolate, vanilla fudge and dried tropical fruits (think of pineapple, mango and peaches especially). Delicate wood spices and a background earthy peat smoke support these.

On the palate this whisky has a slightly robust and mouthcoating feel, but very sweet. This initially comes in the form of toffee and white chocolate, along with some golden syrup. Then comes that intense tropical fruit from the nose - caramelised pineapple plus dried mango, peach and apricot with a hint of fresh lychee. There is also some vanilla and a pleasant dryness that develops led by some warming wood spices (think of cinnamon, nutmeg, all-spice and sprinkling of bitter cocoa powder). The peat smoke is understated but increasingly influential. It has an earthy and soft quality that binds all of the sweet, fruit and spice elements together well.

The finish is of decent length and has a lovely candied lemon, almost sherbet, note that comes through. The sweetness holds well, as does the fruitiness. However, it is the warming wood spices and delicate earthy smoke that linger most and this gives a refreshing dryness in the mouth.

What's the verdict?
This Kavalan Peaty Cask is delicious and has a lovely balance of sweetness and tropical fruit notes, which are tempered by a good level of bittersweet spice. The smokiness is understated, as it comes from the previous cask rather than the malt itself, but mingles with the other characteristics almost un-noticed. However, it seems to bind everything together and help accentuate the more vibrant notes in the whisky.

If you look at the whisky's name and expect a big peaty experience, then you will be disappointed. It is more subtle than that and highlights the quality that can be achieved at Kavalan. Speaking to the guys at The Whisky Exchange recently, there are not many bottles left for sale - grab one as soon as possible if you like the sound of it.