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Kavalan Solist Vinho

Average score from 6 reviews and 8 ratings 89

Kavalan Solist Vinho

Product details

  • Brand: Kavalan
  • Bottler: Unknown
  • ABV: 58.3%

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Kavalan Solist Vinho

When this Kavalan snatched the world whisky award from under the nose of the Scots, international newspapers were quick to pronounce Taiwan the new whisky centre of the world. Yes, Kavalan has taken many of us by surprise. In less than a decade they’ve build a moloch of a distillery that dwarfs many Scottish counterparts production wise, while maintaining a high quality level, allowing to establish itself as a premium brand.

Let’s just see what the boys from Kavalan cooked up this time…

Description: Like most Kavalans a NAS, bottled at 57.0% ABV, amber in colour.

Nose: Judging by the colour one would come to expect a dark full nose, instead you’ll find a refreshing fruity aroma. Like grenadine with lots of berries: pomegranate, raspberry and red currant. Underneath is a layer where you can distinguish some chocolate, vague notes of coconut and crème brûlée

Mouth: a waxy body and quite spicy on the palate. Not too much I can say…sweet and fruity. Some notes of red currant, but oak flavours are dominant

Finish: short and drying with lots of vanilla, a few flakes of chocolate and cold espresso in the tail

Verdict: a flavourful dram, lovely and gratifying. A nose that’s both intriguing and refreshing. But that cheap, vanilla powered finish does not sit right with me. No wait, let me rephrase that, I outright loathed it. My guess is that they either used a fairly young cask, or bottled it too late allowing the oak to leave its signature mark. Well you’ve done it again vanilla: ruined, what would otherwise have been a great dram. No wonder it took me six months to finally write a review.


The Solist Fino, as the name indicates, is finished in a Fino sherry butt. I am told there are many batch variations, so I am curious how mine will do. It is a sample I brought home for a whisky festival in Gent last March.

The nose is fresh and fruity, with a sourish touch. Gooseberries and strawberries precede plums before turning dry. Hay, tobacco and walnuts after a while, but also mint and furniture polish. Worcester sauce! Good stuff. Water gives it an edge of raw steak, I kid you not.

It is very spicy and sweet on the palate. Pepper, mint, strawberry, plums. Nice continuation of the nose. Pear drops and raisins, candied sugar. Dark honey. Maple syrup. This is Fino? Could have been a PX for all I know. Takes water well. It makes it very creamy, very sweet and very good.

The long finish ons weet honey becomes very dry on the deathbed.

Wow, Kavalan really makes beautiful whisky. What a pleasant surprise. But this bottle will set you back almost 300 EUR. Ouch!

Mark, I think there's some confusion. The title states Solist Vinho, but you actually describe Solist Fino. At least the price implies you are talking about Fino))

Indeed, there is a mistake here. This is in fact the Fino. My bad.


Tonight I finally got a chance to crack open my last cask strength Kavalan. The Soloist Vinho Cask.

Kavalan has, for the last two years, been my unicorn.

You're probably shaking your head when I say Kavalan has been my unicorn, but I'll try and bring you up to speed.

Think Gone in 60 Second's, you know the movie about the car thieves stealing all the high end cars, you know the one featuring Nicholas Cage.

In the movie Nicholas Cage is chasing a car, specifically the 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500.

Every time he manages to steal one, something happens that ruins the entire attempt. The unicorn is this impossible object of your desires that no matter how hard you try, you're never able to attain.

Kavalan was my unicorn, a whisky that I've pursued for over two years to put my hands on and after dozens of phone calls all around the United Kingdom, Australia and Asia I finally managed it.

I'd heard about Kavalan a couple years ago, this mythical Taiwanese whisky that was blowing all the other whiskies out of the water, a whisky that was stupidly young, 3, 4, 5 years old, that was incredibly complex, full of tropical aromas and flavors.

I'd called liquor stores all over Australia, the United Kingdom and Asia, trying to put my hands on a bottle of this whisky.

Most liquor store owners just said "Kaval what?"

My wife and I called the distillery, emailed their showrooms, again just trying to put my hands on a bottle, any bottle of theirs.

No can do we heard back. The distillery wasn't exporting out of South East Asia at this time, but maybe in a few years they would.

Whenever a friend went over to Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, you name the South Eastern Asian country, I'd send them there with several hundred in cash with strict instructions to put a bottle into my hands if at all possible.

They had no success.

It got to the point where I was debating planning a trip to Singapore or Vietnam just to pick up a bottle.

In fact I actually planned my wife's and my trip to Scotland partially around an attempt to pick up a bottle, setting up our layover in Singapore for quite a few hours in order to have time to wander around Singapore's bottle shops.

But Kavalan just fell into my lap, a couple of weeks ago, quite randomly.

A liquor store that I follow on Facebook posted about a Kavalan tasting that they'd be hosting.

7 drams for $30 plus a light dinner.

When we arrive at the liquor store we find out that the tasting will be held upstairs in the little Italian restaurant up there and what we'll be tasting is going to be awesome, delicious and yummy.

On the tasting menu is a nice selection of whiskies, including 3 cask strengths: King Car Conductor, Kavalan Concertmaster, Kavalan Single Malt, Kavalan Soloist ex Bourbon Cask Strength, Kavalan Soloist Sherry Cask Strength, and Kavalan Soloist Vinho Cask Strength

The gentleman who at first I thought was the rep of Kavalan talks a bit about Kavalan, but we quickly learn he's one of the owners of an liquor importers and they're the guys running Whisky Live in Australia.

Between paying attention to all the details of Whisky Live and the cooking food smells I decided immediately after tasting the cask strengths that I needed to own a bottle of each of them.

The bourbon cask was great, the sherry cask was nothing short of epic and tonight was the night for the Vinho cask!

I crack open the bottle and pour a dram into my glencairn.

Dark, quite dark. Not so dark as the sherry cask, but there's no way on looks alone that you'd think this was a four year old whisky.

Oh god the aromas hit my nose and immediately DEMAND my attention.

Incredibly tropical and stupidly complex. Lots of vanilla with some caramelized brown sugar and heaps of tropical fruits. Watermelon, rock melon (cantaloupe for you non aussies), mango, cinnamon, citusy tangerines, so much going on in this nose that I happily sat here for over an hour just nosing the whisky.

My wife noses the whisky and very hesitantly says that it's not what she suspects and that she thinks her palate must be off tonight because she is getting heaps and heaps of ripe tropical fruits.

I just look at her and grin and inform her that if her palate is off, then so is mine.

My wife takes the first taste of the dram and just looks at me and smiles, saying it's full of ripe sultanas and is absolutely delicious.

My turn though!

Vanilla, sultanas, slight citrus, cherries, coconut, cinnamon and some toasted oak, fill my mouth and just begs me to take another taste.

A stupidly long finish full of vanilla, coconut, oak and at the very end, not even a memory, but a hint of a memory, tropical fruits.

An excellent whisky, one worth every cent I paid for it and one that was me very excited to see how it opens up after a couple of months time in the bottle and that's a good thing considering that sadly like the rest of the Kavalan whiskies, you're currently going to pay a pretty penny for it. Roughly $75 AUS for a 200mlish bottle. Is it worth it?

Hell yah! This distillery has completely lived up to my dreams and made my pursuit of it completely worthwhile.

Like any and all the Kavalan's I've tried this is a stellar whisky. If you get a chance to try it, DO SO!

Hi Squidyash, I am so so glad to read your review as out of my tasting journey of single malts, blended malts and bourbons, this Kavalan Vinho Solist and the first and only Pappy Van Winkle 10 that I have tried of the Pappy family is a tie. I don't know much enough to really describe the taste, aroma, finish and complexity of the malts that I tasted. But I love love love this Kavalan Vinho Solist. I have tried about five types of Kavalan, with some more expensive than this Vinho Solist, but this one is still my most favorite. The I tasted the Pappy 10 (only managed to get it after three full days and nights of lining up in front of the Liquor Store to wait for the release. Then I love love love the Pappy also. The difference was the Kavalan Vinho Solist is already lovable when I opened the bottle. But I had mixed feelings about the Pappy 10 when I tried for the first time as it seemed very strong on both the nose and taste. But I re-tried it after 7 months and it was indescribably complex. I don't like wines that are sweet except sauternes and Tokaji, but strange enough I kind of like malts vanillaly sweet in some ways. But on the other hand I found the McCallan kind of sweet in it's way. I also like the Four Roses Single Barrel (which I cannot get in Vancouver anymore) and Octomore (very peaty). I think I have a lot to learn and experience in the Malts World. I found the extremely blooming market of Japanese Malts very smooth and feminine (although I am a woman) - but don't get me wrong, feminine in a nice way but I prefer a small 'kick' though. I just joined this site and will be checking from time to time to see what I should try when there's a chance. Too bad that the Kavalan Solist Vinho is now extremely hard to get and Pappy's are 'impossible'. I have the 12 and 15 which I will open on very very very special occasion. In Vancouver the Kavalan malts are still 'foreign' to 95% of the malt drinkers. Keep drinking and share with us your valuable experience. Thanks, Virginia

BTW, managed to attend a small "whisky exposition" with a mate hosted by David Vitale owner and distiller of Starward here in Melbourne. He let us sample some yet-to-be released "side-projects", a cask strength fresh Shiraz cask matured Aussie malt - and I do mean fresh, straight from the winery overnight in a refrigerated truck then filled with new-make, un-recharred and un-preserved.

Wonderfully unique stuff. If you like your wine barrel matured malts, this is something to look out for.

He indicated it would be released in the not too distant future as a special bottling of sorts.


Kavalan distillery is located in the northern part of Taiwan, 60 kilometres south of Taipei. It was built over an eight month period in 2005 and 2006 and uses copper stills that were constructed in Scotland. The distillery boasts an annual capacity of approx. 3.9 million litres. The name of 'Kavalan' is taken from a group of indigenous people who once lived in Yi-Lan County where the distillery is based. The Solist Vinho Barrique is a four-year old cask-strength whisky that was matured in first-fill American wine casks which were toasted and then recharred. It was released in 2009.

The nose is sweet and rich with dried fruits, rubber (but in a good way) and jelly beans. There is hardly any alcohol burn despite the high ABV.

The palate is full-bodied and mouth coating. Again there is the distinct flavour of dried fruits, together with notes of dark chocolate and a spicy oakiness.

The finish is long and warming. Once more the jelly beans make an appearance, along with syrupy notes.

This is my favourite of Kavalan’s Solist series. I am repeating myself, however it is truly astonishing that this single malt is just a few years old. Both nose and palate reflect a complex fruitiness and cause hardly any burn despite the high ABV. Interestingly I did not detect any flavour reminiscent of wine. All in all this is very well done!


This is the fifth installment of my reviews of the Kavalan range. This particular bottling has spent time in American oak casks formerly used for both red and white wines. If you want more technical details, you might want to check out @galg's review of this one.

Nose: Very roasted, caramelized vanilla. semi-sweet chocolate. Some maple. Strong spices. Nutmeg, cinnamon, and most prominently; pepper. Of course, we have Kavalan's trademark attribute; exotic fruit notes. Melon, pineapple, cherries, banana, and coconut. A very vibrant nose.

Palate: Wow. These spices hit hard and fast. Quite the stinging pepper attack. I think this whisky just punched me in the face. Next up we get the wine notes, inferring to a particularly dry red wine, more specifically.

Finish: The fruits promised in the nose make a lovely appearance towards the finish, which is long and smooth, in stark contrast to the abrupt and assertive arrival. Dry, winey, grapey, notes mix with hints of toasted oak and cereal. This finish is something to behold. Very long, with lingering intensity. In my opinion, this finish is by far the highlight of this dram.

The wine notes offer another unique aspect to this dram. ButI have to admit that when I first tried this, I was thrown a bit by the contrast between an assaulting arrival and the elegant, smooth, and lasting finish. It's as though a man entered a room as Mike Tyson and left as Frank Sinatra. It seems wrong, but it works somehow. The weakness, naturally, becomes the balance here. Regardless, I like it. Like its Soloist brethren, love it or hate it, you can't say it's not interesting.

If the Solists were all siblings, they would look like this: The older brother would be the confident, sturdy, masculine sherry. The sister would be the bourbon, the bubbly and sweet middle child. And finally, you have the 3 year old vinho. He's a hell of a character. He's erratic, as all young children are, and he's still finding his balance. He's a good kid, though. They're all good kids.


The Vinho is fully matured in used American oak wine barrels that have been toasted and re-charred manually. The American oak that has been seasoned in the open air for at least 24 months. The oak is slow grown that results in a greater release of flavours into the whisky. This reduces the astringent effect of tannins and releases more vanilla spiciness and hints of herbs. The result is softness and added complexity. The casks have deliberately been used to mature both red and white wines and after their use for wine maturation the casks are carefully shaved inside then gently toasted over an oak chip fire for a strictly controlled period of time and temperature. This converts wine residues into a complex mixture of fruit flavours. Then the casks are charred for a short period of time to release lashings of flavours such as vanilla and caramelised sugars.

Kavalan Vinho , 58.2% ABV

Nose: Sweet and intense, with a lot of vanilla going on , spices galore (cinnamon,white pepper) . Wood is not absent of course and so are dried fruits (sultanas, prunes) . after another sniff, i am getting some exotic fruit mixed with burnt sugar.

Palate: Wham! IN-Your-Face sort of dram. The impact is huge with the high ABV : it starts with an avalanche of sugar, molasses, then you get the winey notes, quite a few tannins, red wine tannins, continuing with spiciness of mixed pepper and cinnamon, wet oak. Best i can describe it is dark artisan chocolate, covered with spicy cinnamon.

Finish : Prunes, in peppery spicy sweet and sugary syrup. very long. excellent stuff.

Bottom line:

One of the better Kavalans i’ve had in recent months. In your face kind of, and not for those into light whiskies. Complex, bottled at the right cask strength, and not too much winy. Good work Ian & Co. Too bad again, that It’s really hard to find an online retailer who sells those, and they are mostly available in the far east. Kavalan assured me they are working on worldwide(er) availability, and It’s indeed worth the wait.

Was right there with you, enjoyed the read...any news on movement with this?

I have no idea. we should ask Ian ;)

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