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Souvenirs from Taiwan

Souvenirs from Taiwan

Taipei skyline
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I recently visited the beautiful country of Taiwan, and of course had to visit Kavalan Distillery while there. I highly recommend the trip to Yilan, as it is only a short drive from Taipei, and the landscape and distillery premises itself are more than charming.

 

Kavalan Distillery
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Kavalan distillery still room
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Kavalan distillery warehouse
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After a nice stroll around the large premises, I entered the distillery shop and was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the recent Special Edition bottlings, celebrating 40 years of King Car, the company which owns Kavalan. It is rather expensive and the bottle only holds 200ml, so I really hope it lives up to my expectations. Let’s crack it open and find out…

Kavalan Selected Wine Cask Matured
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Kavalan Selected Wine Cask Matured

This one was matured in french Claret Bordeaux red wine casks, which were hand selected by master distiller Ian Chang. In my opinion, Kavalan is always about fresh casks and intense flavours, so I expect a lot of wine notes in here. Hopefully, its not too dry.

Kavalan Selected Wine Cask
foto credit justadram.org

Nose:
Zesty red fruits, most prominently red currant. Red apple, elderberry, lychee, a slice of peach, jasmin tea, Orangina, water melon, salted butter toffee, cookie dough and a fresh hint of mint. Very nice and fizzy nose. A tropical fruitcake with a little salty edge.

Taste:
Fruit buiscuits, orange marmelade, juicy watermelon, lots of coffee, minty and herbal. Fernet Menta, chocolate, aged Madeira wine. A lot more oaky than I expected from the nose. Reminds me of the Vinho Barrique bottling. Tangy finish on red berries and bitter apple peel.

Comments:
As expected, this bottling is all about the great quality cask selection. Just don’t expect a classic “scotch” profile here. Avery modern and rather free interpretation of Single Malt Whisky. This is liquid sunshine in a glas. /89


Another bottle I bought at the distillery is the Solist Fino Sherry Cask. I tried one of these before, so when I saw it on discount at the distillery shop, I couldn’t resist.

Kavalan Solist Fino

Kavalan Solist Fino
foto credit justadram.org

Nose:

Intensly meaty, salty and spicey. Cured meats, rich honey, toffee, black pepper BBQ sauce, wet tobacco. Linseed oil, oakchar and leather. A hint of allspice and cumin in the background. Very complex and alive. Water accentuates the spices even more.

Taste:

Mirrors the nose quite well. Starts on cured meat, cantonese sweet and sour sauce, physalis, orange peel, wild honey, roasted and salted almonds, trailmix. very rich and oily mouthfeel. Damn, this is a good one. Long finish on bitter walnuts and oakchar.

Comments:

A very nice Kava again. I don’t have a lot of past references when it comes to Fino cask maturation so it’s a bit hard to pin down, due to the everchanging nose. It’s all moving and evolving parts, but they fit together nicely. An exciting dram that one can spend plenty of time with. /91

 


I also visited the newly opened Kavalan Whisky Bar in Taipei city. I can only recommend it. It is a bit pricey but the whole experience is worth it. I had a great time and the friendly and knowledgable staff made it even better. You might want to book a table in advance to make sure you get a seat. I had a dram of the Kavalan Solist PX Sherry and really enjoyed it. Normally, I am not super into PX matured malt, but this was another amazing Kavalan Solist. I took no detailed notes, just kicked back and enjoyed the moment. The dram was very meaty, mentholated, and surprisingly more about the wood than the sweetness of the PX. Very delicious… My girlfriend tried one of their non-alcoholic hibiscus-juice based cocktails, which was also very creative and tasty.

Kavalan Whisky Bar Taipei
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Kavalan Solist PX
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As a whisky lover, Taiwan is a great country to visit. There are so many whisky and spirits shops in Taipei, and lots of special editions are to be discovered. Add to that, the amazing, friendly people, the beautiful nature and the delicious food and you are up for a great travel experience. I hope to come back soon.

Wufengqi waterfall
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Caol Ila 2007 / 10YO / The Maltman Sherry Cask 312 / Germany Exclusive / 54.7% Vol.

Caol Ila 2007 / 10YO / The Maltman Sherry Cask 312 / Germany Exclusive / 54.7% Vol.

Another, fairly recent, release by the infamous Maltman aka Meadowside Blending. I simply adore most of their output so far. This one is exclusively bottled for the german distributor Alba Import. So, let’s taste this dark beauty from Islay.

Foto Credit: justadram.org

 

Nose:

Smoked bacon. Old leather jacket. Freshly squeezed lemon sprinkled with salt. Sea breeze. A bonfire on the beach. Driftwood. Wet stones. Menthol. Fishermen’s Friends. Very mineral and earthy. Some forest honey and orange rind in the background.

Taste:

Very oily and leathery arrival. Afterwards, sweet and salty flavors spread on the tongue. Roasted and salted peanuts. Macadamia. Bacon. Iodine tincture and cough drops. In the finish, a beautiful, leathery bitterness from the oak, with espresso notes and tart orange peel. The nose is now getting fresher and more mineral.

Comments:

Maltman has delivered again. Caol Ila from sherry casks are rather rare. Really nice, maritime malt with not too dominant sherry influence. If you like Caol Ila, you will be very happy here. / 87

Kavalan Sherry Oak / 2018 / NAS / 46% Vol.

Kavalan Sherry Oak / 2018 / NAS / 46% Vol.

When I first came in contact with the taiwanese Kavalan bottlings, I wasn’t too impressed, to be honest. Back then, I tried the Classic, Podium and Concertmaster from their corerange and they where all quite allright but also a little simple and thin im my rememberance. A few years later, I stumpled upon the Solists (Single Casks)  and Selection Range, and things changed drastically.

Today, I want to taste the „Sherry Oak”, which is the entry level sherry bottling of Kavalan. It’s bottled at a little lower ABV (46%) than the cask strength Solists, but the color is nonetheless promising.

Foto Credit: justadram.org

 

Nose:

Cassis, blackberries, raisins and orange peel. Wet tobacco, balsamico, chicken broth, slightly tangy and salty. Hints of menthol and cough drops. With time, earthy notes appear. Rotting leaves in autumn, mushrooms, damp forest floor. A great nose! .. No single off–note is to be found.

Taste:

bittersweet with orangepeel, blackberries, raisins and tobacco. Gets then more salty, meaty and umami. The 46%ABV make for a creamy and velvety mouthfeel. Even though this is NAS it doesn’t feel young at all. Only the finish is a bit short and makes you want to pour the next dram. 😉

Comments:

Holy Sherry Bomb Batman – this is great stuff! I was a little hesitant at first because of the lower ABV and price compared to the Solists and Selection bottlings but this is right up my alley. On par with some of the glorious Glenfarclas Family Casks but for a fraction of the cost. Only the finish gives away the youth maybe. But for that price, I can easily live with that. A modern dark sherry malt that ticks all the boxes. I hope they can continue with this kind of quality. /89

Feasting on Ardbeg. Part 2

Feasting on Ardbeg. Part 2

I recently tasted a couple more Ardbegs. Some recent, some older bottlings but always fun. Here are my notes!

Ardbeg 2000 / 18YO / MoS / Cask 18010 /51.5 % Vol.

Foto Credit: Whiskybase.com

Nose:

Beautiful, rich sherried color, this one! Beef stock, overripe oranges, christmas punch, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, old dusty leatherjacket, some menthol and camphor. “old english candyshop”. Refined and silky peatsmoke. Don’t expect a maritime young peatmonster like TEN or Uigeadail here. This one smells really old and mature.

Taste:

Creamy and sweet. Spicy woodnotes follow up, salty peatsmoke expands on the palate. Dark chocolate with seasalt, bitter orangepeel, and a touch of mint tingling on the sides of your tongue. Great combination of aromas. All seems to fit in perfectly. Sadly, the finish is a bit short for a malt of this age and character.

Comments:

What a nice MoS bottling this is. Finally a really mature, age-stated, sherried Ardbeg again. I think this one should be to many peoples liking. The price is steep, but you get an oldschool quality Ardbeg profile that you can not find in the official bottlings nowadays. For me the best MoS Ardbeg bottling to date. Only the relatively short finish prevents a higher score. I added 2-3 drops of water and let it breathe for around half an hour. The nose opens up and the sweetness on the palate is boosted. /90


Smokehead 18YO Extra Black / Ian MacLeod / Limited Edition / 46% Vol.

Foto Credit: Whiskybase.com

So this one is out since 2010, but sadly it’s mostly gone from retail shelves by now…

Nose:

Salted lime peel! Fruity beeswax candles. Dry vanillapods. Even a hint of tropical fruits like mango or papaya. The peat is delicate but gives a salty and tangy edge to the whole experience. Smoky limoncello. With time, old leatherjacket and dried tobaccoleaves accompany the fruits.

Taste:

A meaty, herbal and mentholated start. Oily and mature mouthfeel. The peat has cigarlike qualitys and you get the feeling of aged smoky mezcal with drops of lemonjuice. A simple, focused and rather delicious dram. Reminds me of the Caol Ila 25YO.

Comments:

At the time when this one was readily available, it was a real bargain. All bourbon matured, no gimmicky Ardbeg at a nice age. What more can you ask for? /88


Ardbeg SMWS 33.74 / 1998 / 10YO / “A dirty dram for Mary Poppins” / 56.6% VOL.

Foto credit: whiskybase.com

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is almost always Top Notch when it comes to Ardbeg. So let’s taste this older single cask. Hopes are high 😉

Nose:

There are sulphury sherry casks that are absolutely horrible and then there are these rare instances where the touch of sulphur, the sherry residue and the peated malt just sing in tune to absolute perfection. Which is the case here: Tart orangepeel, subdued and salty peatsmoke, a bonfire on the beach, fresh seabreeze, wet flintstones, copper coins, Zippo lighter, grilled BBQ ribs, buttery corncobs, strawberry bubblegum, cooling menthol, green vegetables.

Taste:

Pungent arrival on toffee sweets, lime, sherry and copper. Waves of black peatsmoke roll over the tongue. Very fizzy and alive. orangepeel, lime, liquorice, rosmarin, thyme, fleur de sel, a bit of sulphur, the ribs again. Chocolate mints and a nice astringent bitterness in the finish.

Comments:

I have yet to find a bad SMWS Ardbeg. This one has quite a bit of sulphur, so if you can’t handle that, stay clear. I think, with this cask it was rather an asset than a flaw. /89


Ardbeg Rollercoaster / 2009 / NAS / Committee Release / 57.3% Vol.

Foto credit: whiskybase.com

This one was bottled in 2009 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the infamous Ardbeg committee. A blend of casks from ten different vintages, according to the backlabel, and bottled at cask strength. The secondary market prices for this one are of course insane these days.

Nose:

Seabreeze, ozone, salted lemons, fishy peatsmoke, some vanilla, honey, ashtray, lychees, fresh, young, vibrant and very “modern Ardbeg”. My guess would be that they used predominantly first- and second-fill bourbon casks for the mix.

Taste:

A fistful of Ardbeg! Pungent peatsmoke, vanilla, leather, tobacco, crushed seasalt, limejuice, liquorice, vanilla, mineral riesling, green grapes and seawater. Hits you like a hammer (or a rollercoaster ride) and then its gone.

Comments:

Not too sure… Its a good one, but I have to say I expected a bit more. Maybe because of the high price nowadays? For around 80€, I would grab one no doubt, but the current pricing is absurd. Its good, not great Cask Strength Ardbeg, nothing more, nothing less. Taste- and qualitywise its very near to the readily available Corryvreckan. So I recommend you go for that one instead. If you are just looking to add to your collection, I wish you good luck in finding one at an affordable price. /87