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Last September Kavalan released a special expression called “Distillery Reserve.” Unfortunately this is only sold at the distillery and specialty shops. However, hopefully this review will prove useful to those of you who plan on visiting the distillery, or even to those who have a general interest in the Kavalan range.
It’s sold in a 300ml bottle with hand-written notes which include the date of distillation, the date of bottling, and the batch number. It’s finished in a “peaty cask” and was bottled at a healthy 55% abv. Having tried (and loved) pretty much the entire range, I was keen to grab this one. While the whisky itself isn’t peated, they did use peaty casks to finish it; which would make this expression Kavalan’s first foray into the realm of peat (as far as I know). The reviewed bottle was distilled in 2007 and bottled in December 2013, making it roughly a 6 yo whisky. Here we go:
Nose: A very young-ish nose. Tart and musty. Zesty lemon rind, caramel, green apple, banana, pear, allspice, and a very faint whiff of vanilla. There’s also a vegetal note that reminds me of fresh celery and a musty oak note that I can’t quite decide if I like.
Palate: Creamy, with a strong, peppery arrival. There’s a very nice dark honey note that ushers in hazelnut, milk chocolate, butterscotch, vanilla and a lovely lavender note. Very interesting.
Finish: Big butterscotch (think Werther’s Originals), more butter, lavender, and more floral notes. That powerful butterscotch note quickly dissipates as some soft, earthy, mineral-rich peat comes in. The peat is quite distinctive here. That musty oak note returns to give us a lovely, drying prickle which carries us through the medium-long finish.
This is one of the most unique Kavalans I’ve tried. There are things I love in here, and things that I’m not sure I like. For one, I find the nose to be quite young-ish and not very expressive. Also, I occasionally got a hint of something chemical in the finish. Reminiscent of mothballs, which is odd. However this whisky does redeem itself with an absolutely gorgeous and rich butterscotch taste, which really defines the palate and finish. It’s sweet, savory, and delicious. It’s also fun to taste Kavalan’s first release with a peaty influence. I’m always a fan of peat with an earthy, mineral-like character as opposed to a smoky one. Well done.
Despite being flawed, I really enjoy the overall character and uniqueness of this whisky. It’s very good, and I guarantee it’s like nothing else you’ve tasted before. If you ever find yourself in Taiwan, this is one to try. Very distinctive.