The latest Malt Maniacs Awards 2016 caused a bit of a stir because Kavalan expressions seemed to have hijacked the whole competition (no less than 10 bottlings in the top–15). I agree on the impressive character of these whiskies and the general quality, but to get a more representative outcome they probably need to come up with a more efficient limitation across distilleries (as 1 of every 8 bottles in the competition was a Kavalan).
A lot of retailers and whisky clubs are currently looking at the Taiwanese Kavalan distillery for their bespoke expressions. Heavy sherry has a wide audience, Taiwanese whisky is still something many whisky drinkers haven’t heard of and somehow the high prices are accepted because of their rich profile.
I tend to like sherried Kavalans, but I also think their production is very standardized, not to say boringly efficient (notice how nearly all of their “cask strength” casks get to 57.8% after six years or so).
Today we’re trying a brand-new Kavalan Selection Sherry Cask bottled for the 10th anniversary year of their Belgian importer The Nectar. This Selection range seems to be a relatively new series for bespoke single casks that come in a fancy box. It was distilled in 2010 (note that all of the MMA Kavalans were Solist 2006 or 2009 casks).
Just a side note… if there’s no LMdW involved, then I’d say an English label is more appropriate than a French?
Kavalan ‘Selection’ Sherry Cask (57,8%, OB for The Nectar 2016, sherry cask #S100203018A, 518 btl.)
Nose: thick and heavy, on fig bread, assorted nuts, sticky dates and plums macerated in Spanish brandy. Cherry confit. Not the brightest nose though, it seems to miss some of the raspberry sparkle that I loved in other Solists. Dark liquorice and coffee, including some vegetal touches and decomposed leaves in the back. Nice hints of marzipan and almond liqueur after a while.
Mouth: sherry blast, with a lot of oak tannins and resinous notes. They mingle with pepper, cinnamon and clove (make it allspice). Brazil nuts with dark chocolate. Herbs. Pine sap. Slightly bloated and less fruity than some others.
Finish: long, fairly dry, with bittersweet cocoa powder, leather and black cherries.
A fine Kavalan again, though with more tannins and slightly mulchy notes. I liked previous bottlings for The Nectar (and subsidiaries) better. Around € 160.