By Jake Emen
If you haven’t yet branched out into the global range of whisky, beyond Scotland’s salty shores, then Taiwan likely isn’t your first stop. Yet it might be one of your best bets, thanks to the emerging Kavalan Range made via the King Car Group Whisky Distillery. It’s Taiwan’s first whisky distillery, and they’ve been in business since 2008.
Today they’re putting out a wider collection than ever and they’re making a splash on the international scene. From winning blind taste tests against some of Scotland’s finest to becoming a whisky-tourism destination and establishing their own distinctive flavor profile, Kavalan is clearly on the rise right now.
In this first article of a series which will be looking at several of Kavalan’s offerings, we’ll examine the foundation of their lineup, their Kavalan Single Malt Whisky.
Kavalan is named for an indigenous Taiwanese tribe who was the earliest group to inhabit Yilan County, which is now home to the Kavalan distillery in the northwest of the island nation. It’s a name which is meant to showcase the distillery’s dedication to making good usage of Taiwan’s natural resources and capabilities.
It’s therefore no surprise that Kavalan touts their unique location as a key component in and of itself for their whisky, and they chose Yilan specifically due to the quality of its natural spring water.
Kavalan believes that the heat of the sub-tropical climate of Taiwan helps to spur on faster maturation, while imparting unique flavors due to different interactions between the spirit and the barrel. They also have a focus on all things cask-related, and as such a large portion of the Kavalan Range is based on the divergent casks they use for different whiskies.
Now that we have our instructional lesson on Kavalan covered, let’s move ahead to the whisky itself. Kavalan Single Malt Whisky is golden hued in the glass, and on the nose, it offers a range from saltiness to fruit, honey and floral aromas. The salty-briny profile certainly would lend credence to a Scottish heritage if you didn’t know what you were having.
On the palate, Kavalan Single Malt Whisky offers a smooth spiciness, and a light, crisp mouthfeel. There’s citrus fruit, oak, salt, and a hint of a sweeter, deeper depth consisting of chocolate, honey and more fruit. The finish is warm, spicy and lingering.
As a jumping off point to experimenting with the rest of the Kavalan Range, it’s easy to see that their whisky is more than a collection of well-honed talking points. There’s a great deal of complexity and character of flavor, and a suggestion that there’s a lot to toy and tinker with in terms of extended aging periods, and the rest of the series which features assorted types of casks.
Kavalan Single Malt Whisky (40% ABV) typically retails online between $70 and $80 for a 750ml bottle.
Kavalan Single Malt Whiskey has won golds in 2012 and 2013 from the Beverage Testing Institute, as well as a gold and best in class at the 2011 International Wine & Spirit Competition. It has also garnered much praise and recognition, being named the New World Whisky Of The Year by The Whisky Bible, and appearing as one of the 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die.