Kavalan is one of the few (only?) single malt distilleries in Taiwan. Established in 2005, it has been releasing an increasing range of whiskies including a wide array of single casks.
This whisky was distilled on January 22nd 2009, filled into a sherry butt, then bottled on April 9th 2015 at 57.8% without coloring or chill filtration.
Kavalan Soloist Cask S090122079
Nose: 90% oloroso sherry with a burnt edge, sour wine, nutty oak, wood spices, pink bubblegum, vaguely floral in the background, fatty roast beef savoriness, creamy malt underneath, dark/bitter chocolate. After adding a healthy slug of water the chocolate notes begin to dominate, a little fresh mint pops out, the oak becomes more toasted, and it feels more youthful overall.
Taste: big sherry throughout, moderately sweet up front, which is slowly overwhelmed by a rising tide of black pepper, cacao nibs, and oak tannins - becoming distinctly spicy and bitter at the back. After dilution it becomes softer and the sweetness spreads out, but so does the bitterness - amplifying the dryness at the back, and some mint/herbal notes come out, while leaving the overall structure basically the same.
Finish: black/chili pepper, astringent oak tannins, cacao nibs, dry sherry residue, savory yeast
I just don't get the hype - this is good, but a long way from being unique. It feels like lots of other malt whiskies that are produced in warm countries - there is a lot of extractive character, but it's hard to say that it's 'mature'.
Kavalan consistently manages to sell their whiskies, especially the Soloist single casks, for a lot of money. But it's hard for me to find much here beyond the obvious - it's an extremely sherried young single malt. But those are practically a dime a dozen in Scotland now with more and more distilleries imitating Aberlour A'Bunadh, Glenfarclas 105, and the former Macallan Cask Strength with high proof, heavily sherried, no age statement (so presumably young) whiskies. If you go into the world of indepedent bottlers there are countless sherry single casks that will tick the same boxes. So why do people go nuts over Kavalan and open their wallets wide? I'm pretty content to have limited myself to a couple of samples. I might try one or two more if I can get them that way, but I can't imagine shelling out for a whole bottle when there are so many alternatives available at half the price or less.
For other takes on this whisky, see Michael Kravitz's and MAO's reviews.