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Even though I'm back from a trip to Scotland - having brought back five bottles (six if you count a bottle of rum for my dad's 70th birthday) , and tasted countless more - I thought I would do a complete 180 and write up on - Taiwan. Go figure.
Kavalan may be the future of whisky. Owned by Taiwanese food conglomerate King Car, Kavalan was built in 2005 and was the brainchild of King Car chairman TT Lee. Consultant Jim Swan worked with master blender Ian Chang to develop very distinctive award-winning whiskies, the best known of which are cask strength, single cask single malts. As you can imagine given the climate, maturation works quickly - especially in warehouses that are five stories tall! Kavalan Distillery is huge, on enormous grounds and is a major tourist attraction in Taiwan. Most who have an insight into the worldwide whisky industry will tell you that, given the inevitable growth and global influence of Asia in all areas of business and culture, whiskies such as Kavalan (and future whiskies that will come out of China) will, over years and perhaps decades, become the norm rather than the exception.
The Sherry Cask Solist is a cask strength single cask malt. This particular bottle (one of 534) comes from cask no. S060710009, with a date stamp of May 14 2012 (there is no age statement). Fully matured in a sherry cask (I'm guessing oloroso?), it is non-coloured and non chill-filtered.
The colour is Cherry Coke. The nose is - wait for it - flat Cherry Coke. Rich dark fruits, nutty, mincemeat, mocha, even beef stock. Lots of sherry, almost as if it was added to the spirit (I mean that in a good way). As rich and delicious a nose as you could hope for. Becomes a little more herbal with the addition of water (but you have to add quite a bit to get any effect whatsoever).
There is an immediate sting on the lips, and is very mouth-drying. Cocoa, heat, rich spices like cardamom and cumin, and lots of sherry wood. Bitter herbs and finely ground espresso. Completely mouth-coating. Some lemon zest with the generous addition of water. Unforgettable in its richness and power.
The finish is not as powerful as you might think, but long and developing with gentler spices (cinnamon), black liquorice and more flat Cherry Coke (which is great!). This is amazing but not for the faint-of-heart. Not a hint of sulphur in this most massive sherry bomb. If ever you get a chance to obtain any bottle of Solist Sherry Cask, do so (no matter the specific cask or ABV, which will be different from this one, most likely). 2011 World Whiskies Award winner for Best Rest Of The World Single Malt (though likely from a different cask). I'm betting this will go very nice with a cigar (I think I'll test that theory right now...)