Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 5

5 12 2015

I have to head out of town overnight so I’m posting early, which means that I may be one of the first to alert you that Day 5 of the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar is a showstopper.  When it was first announced that this year’s calendar would contain an offering from Taiwan, I knew that could (literally) only mean one thing:  Kavalan, the first and only distillery in this small Asian nation.  Kavalan has only been around for 10 years, since 2005, but in that short span of time it has basically set the whisky world on fire and danced on the smouldering ruins, culminating in this year’s announcement that its Vinho Barrique malt (which I own and is spectacular) had been named the world’s best single malt whisky by the World Whisky Awards.  How can a distillery that just hit the decade mark be churning out world elite scotches so quickly?  (Remember, single malt whiskies have to be distilled solely by their producer.)  Don’t top whiskies usually need a long time to mature and develop their complex flavours?  Not in Taiwan.  Like the roasting hot Bourbon aging warehouses in Kentucky on warp speed, Kavalan gets extreme flavour transference and development during maturation in record time due to the heat and humidity almost always prevalent in the country, which speeds up both water evaporation and the reaction between spirit and barrel wood, resulting in concentrated, deeply coloured, layered whiskies after only a few years.  That sounds too good to be true for the distillery, but it’s real.  You have to taste it to believe it.


This is a cask-strength (54% abv) rendition of the Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak Single Malt Whisky.  I have to start by noting that the (stunning) packaging tube for this whisky identifies its colour as “Cattle egret”.  Cow heron!  I would have said “deep golden”, but sure.  You almost have to add water to drink this dram pleasurably, lest it otherwise Novocaine your entire tongue and eradicate your stomach lining.  This is one of those whiskies you can smell all day, due less to incredible complexity than to an immediate and easy, almost languid appeal:  brown sugar, white flowers, honey, Amaretto, fresh peach, kettle corn.  You feel like you should be floating down the Mississippi on a raft in the summer sniffing it.  That emotion only elevates when you taste it, as the unabashed sweetness from the bourbon barrels lend instant pleasure to the downright delicious flavours of coconut, baked apple, Corn Pops, vanilla bean and what I’ll call “caramel macchiato”, part burnt sugar, part creamy steamed milk, part roasted coffee.  This is pure joy in a (cask-strength) bottle.  We’re treading into premium territory now in the $140 range, but damned if you don’t get premium results for the price tag.  This is just achingly good.



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