WINE & SPIRITS
the d r i n k:
somet hing n e w Kavalan is an exciting emerging whisky brand from Taiwan— the first of its kind on the island. Quest gets the first taste. BY RYAN CROSBY
Kavalan is the old name for Yilan County, the pristine northern part of Taiwan where the distillery is located. Ian Chang, the master blender, is proud to say, “We do not try or pretend to be any one of the Scotches or the Japanese whiskies. Kavalan whisky has since day one set out to be a unique Taiwanese whisky on its own.” The International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London have so far, with a brief history of just over eight years, awarded Kavalan distillery three years in a row as Asia-Pacific’s Spirit Producer of the Year since 2011 . The brand is the brainchild of Mr. T.T. Lee, who conceived of the distillery when Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization in 2002, making a privately owned spirit a reality for the first time in his country. It was completed in 2005, and the first drops to leave the casks arrived in March 2006—a timeline that might surprise aficionados. The quick production can be attributed to the uniqueness of the subtropical climate, which speeds up the aging process. The flavor of Kavalan is a joy for connoisseurs of whisky, the complexity on the palate hits different notes than the typical Bourbon or Scotch. Hints of mango, green apple and cherry permeate many of the whiskies, while vanilla, honey and nutty flavors often add to the silkiness of the finish. The award-winning standouts from their collection are the Kavalan Classic Single Malt and the Solist Fino, which is the only whisky to score 100 two years in a row from the Beverage Testing Institute. Chang swears by pairing the different blends with meals, in place of wine. Kavalan has over one million visitors a year, and U.K.’s Whisky Magazine awarded it with Tourist Attraction of the Year for 2011 and 2013. It is also just 45 minutes away from the Taipei 101, convenient for those who want to shop in the world’s tallest building. Definitely worth the side trip for spirit fanatics, luxury travelers can be VIP guests on a comprehensive guided tour of the maturation warehouse with a member of the research and development team, and can sample whisky straight from the casks, which is a very rare opportunity at distilleries. “My general goal for the brand is to see Kavalan single malt whisky be widely purchased, savored and enjoyed by global consumers within the next 10 years,” Chang enthuses. “I would really want to make Kavalan a true global brand and also the icon of Taiwanese Whisky. We want the instant connection—when one sees Kavalan, one thinks of Taiwan!”
TASTING NOTES Kavalan Classic Single Malt The first whisky the distillery produced, its complex and fruity taste has earned it many awards and a mention in the popular book “101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die.”
Kavalan Concertmaster Also single malt, this markedly polished spirit matures first in American oak casks before being finished in Portuguese ruby, tawny and vintage port wine casks to add smoothness to the taste.
Kavalan Ex-Bourbon Cask Solist Boasting a pretty self explanatory name, it’s aged in American White Oak ex-bourbon casks and served non-chill filtered at single cask strength, which is between 55–60% volume. It’s remarkably both velveteen and complex considering its strong alcohol content.
Published on Jul 25, 2014
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