By Jake Emen
Kavalan Concertmaster Single Malt Whisky is finished utilizing several different varieties of Port casks, including Ruby Port, Tawny Port and Vintage Port, that being the “concert.” First though, Concertmaster is aged in American oak casks. It’s yet another unique cask and aging process from Kavalan. While the port-finish has become a feature of whiskey-making around the world, it often focuses on just one type of port. Two would be very unusual, and three unheard of.
Concertmaster (40% ABV) is a brownish gold in the glass, with a tinge of deep red breaking through. On the nose, you’ll find sweet red wine and plenty of Port. There’s chocolate, raspberry and other berry fruits, and also a lighter profile of tropical fruits and honey.
It’s an inviting and diverse bouquet which gets you excited to take that first sip… only to have it fall completely flat on the palate. My first taste was truly disappointing after all of those aromas I just ticked off. So many rich, pleasant scents on the nose, but where’d they go? It’s smooth and easy drinking, but exceedingly one note in comparison to the nose. The finish is rather quick and without much burn.
With a touch of water or on ice, a more complex flavor, and richness of flavor, is apparent. Here, you’ll enjoy oak, honey and an agave syrup sweetness. The tropical fruit really comes out to play as well on the nose, with touches of pineapple, guava and honeydew.
Altogether, Concertmaster is promise and potential unfulfilled. The nose brings you in, but there’s no payoff on the palate. Surely, if the nose wasn’t as bursting with aroma, the palate wouldn’t be as disappointing in comparison, but you don’t want to cast away the best part of something to salvage the rest of it for comparison’s sake.
When even Kavalan’s own tasting notes on the product fail to list any specific flavor or component you’ll notice, simply defining the palate as “rich bodied with natural sweetness and complexity”, perhaps that tells you something, too.
Kavalan Concertmaster can be purchased online, with prices most typically falling into the mid $80s for a 750 ml bottle.
Concertmaster won a 2013 gold from the Beverage Tasting Institute, and a 2011 silver and best in class at the International Wine and Spirits Competition.