Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Kavalan Solist

I covered Kavalan before. In 2013 I visited Taiwan and tasted a range of their products

This time I am covering to newer Solist expressions. And I do it with a guest post from another danish whisky blog, followed by my own short notes for a couple of the Solists


Hi, my name is Carsten followed by a surname that’s completely unpronounceable in English, so I won’t even bother writing it. I’m a Dane in my mid-thirties (let’s keep it at that) and I live in a town called Odense. I have been drinking whisky for the better part of a decade and I’m also a whisky blogger. I have a blog at, but alas, that’s completely unusable to most of you since my blog is also in Danish. Feel free to drop by though or contact me through my Facebook page.
A couple of weeks ago Steffen, the fine gentleman that usually roams these pages, asked me if I would like to write a guest review here on the Danish Whisky Blog and, since he also said that he would supply the whisky, I had no problem accepting his offer. It’s nice to write in English once in a while and perhaps make some new acquaintances. Enough small-talk… Let’s get to the whisky!
Kavalan, which is actually called Yuan Shan Distillery, is a Taiwanese distillery, that’s located in Yilan County just a little south of the capital, Taipei. The distillery is named after the indigenous people who originally inhabited the area where the distillery is located. Kavalan is owned by King Car Group, which is a big Taiwanese food and drink producer. The founder of King Car Group, Tien-Tsai Lee, had a dream of producing a world class whisky in Taiwan and the planning started in 2002. The actual construction of the distillery did not start until 2005 and it was completed on December 31, 2015.
To help them in the process Kavalan hired Dr. Jim Swan as a consultant. Dr. Jim Swan has served as a consultant for many new distillery projects in the last decades including Penderyn, Annandale and Kilchoman. On March 13, 2006 the first new make flowed from the stills and on December 4, 2008 the first bottling, the Kavalan Classic, was released to the public. Since then the distillery has released many different bottlings, but the most iconic of them are probably the Solist series, which consists of a range of single cask releases, matured in various types of casks. Kavalan has received many awards for its whisky, including taking the top honors in the Malt Maniacs Awards 2014.
When the distillery was built it had two sets of stills consisting of two wash stills with a capacity of 12,000 liters each and 2 spirit stills with a capacity of 7,000 liters each. That gave Kavalan a yearly output of about 1.5 million liters of alcohol. However, with the huge success that Kavalan has experienced the need for more capacity quickly became evident. In 2015 a further six stills were installed and the capacity was increased to 4.5 million liters per year and, here in 2016, a further 10 stills will be installed and the capacity will be doubled to 9 million liters of alcohol. There are two huge, five stories high, warehouses on site and most of the casks mature standing up on pallets. Due to the warm climate the amount of evaporation is quite high and the greedy angels grab up to 15% per year.
Today, we will taste three different Kavalan Solist bottlings. The first is from a bourbon cask, the second is from a port cask and the third is from a sherry cask. Let’s go!

Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask, 57.1%, Cask B100723021A, 4 Years Old
The distillery character of Kavalan is said to be quite tropical and that definitely shines through on the nose. It’s very fresh with pineapple, mango, bananas and some coconut water. There are lots of vanilla and some nuttiness, which almost translates into marzipan. Some lime in the background together with some pepper. With a couple of dashes of water, the nuttiness becomes more apparent and so does the vanilla. Fortunately it never loses its fruitiness and it’s actually quite nice with water.
The taste is sweet to begin with. Lots of banana and mango paired with some chocolate, but the sweetness does not last long. The wood is really asserting itself mid-palate and the whole thing gets rather hot and peppery. Once again it’s much better with water. The sweetness continues for much longer and it’s fruitier and creamier. The oak is still present, but the hotness and the pepper are almost gone.
The finish is quite long with more tropical fruits, some chocolate and more pepper.
This is quite a nice bottling from Kavalan. It’s not the most complex of whiskies and it certainly is very oak-driven, but not so much that the distillery character is gone. The nose is wonderfully fresh and you can almost imagine yourself sitting on a tropical beach. I do find it a bit too hot on the palate without water, but luckily it takes water really well. It actually reminds a little of a 25 YO Glenrothes I had earlier this year! I have no problem recommending this bottling, as long as you’re willing to experiment a little with the water.

Kavalan Solist Port Cask, 58.6%, Cask O090617023A, 6 Years Old
This is quite spitiry on the nose in the beginning, but it quickly settles down. There are a slew of berries, including strawberries, raspberries and cherries together with some sweet oranges.  There’s also a lot of underlying spiciness like cinnamon, vanilla and it’s quite nutty.  A little bit of brown sugar and some toffee. It you add some water the sweetness really stands out and it becomes a little buttery.
In the beginning of the palate there’s a lot of sweet fruitiness. Again it’s the berries that dominate. Then there’s some dark chocolate and a lot of cinnamon. It becomes really spice, with lots of oak influence and your mouth starts to dry out. Water takes the punch out of it a bit, but all the flavours are still there. The development does become a little longer and the chocolate stands out more together with some orange peel.
It has a long after aftertaste with chocolate, cherries and cinnamon. Very nice!
This is a really nice and very balanced whisky. The nose and the palate are well connected and you taste pretty much what you expect after nosing it. It’s spicy in a very nice way and the cinnamon and the chocolate will stay with you for quite some time after swallowing it. The water takes away some of the punch, but it does add a bit more character, so once more I recommend experimenting with the water.  Good work Kavalan!

Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask, 58.6%, Cask S060821017, 6 Years Old
This first thing I notice is a lot of rich dried fruits. This is definitely a sherried whisky! Raisins, cranberries and cherries. It’s also very spicy with cinnamon and vanilla. There’s a dark sugary and chocolaty sweetness to the nose together with a lot of nuttiness. Water emphasizes the chocolate and the cranberries in a big way. It’s much better with water.
There’s a very spicy arrival on the palate and I’m not getting a lot of the dried fruits. It’s quite sharp and peppery with lots of oak. A little bit of chocolate shines through, but it’s just too hot. After adding some water everything improves a lot. Now I get the dried fruits and it’s much less sharp and peppery. Chocolate, cinnamon, toffee and a little bit of orange.
Nice long aftertaste with coffee, raisins and dark chocolate.
The sherry is all over this one and I do feel that that it’s just a bit over the top. Sherry matured whisky needs time to settle down and interact with the cask over time. I know that the climate is different in Taiwan, but quick maturation, however good it is, is still not a substitute for long maturation and I really feel that it shows in this bottling. The nose has all the right characteristics, but it not very deep and mysterious.  The palate is simply too hot and even though the water helps a lot it’s still my least favourite of the three. But I also know that this kind of whisky has a big audience and Kavalan will sell every bottle they produce.
Time to sum up… Kavalan is really on to something here and I would love to taste some of their standard bottlings, to see how they stack up against these single cask bottling. As I’ve mentioned already they are all very oak-driven, but that not necessarily a bad thing. The bourbon matured bottling is a tropical explosion and I could drink this all day while just relaxing in the garden. The port matured one is my absolute favourite of the three, but I’m a sucker for port matured whisky, so that’s no big surprise. The sherry matured bottling did however disappoint me a little bit. It lacked depth, was not very complex and somehow it just felt rushed. One thing that these Kavalans have in common though is that they all take water very nicely and they all need in my opinion.

I look forward to following Kavalan in the future and there will plenty of opportunity for that given their recent expansions. Thanks to Steffen for letting me take over his blog for a while. It was fun tasting Kavalan for the first time and the whisky certainly didn’t disappoint. Now I just need to find myself a bottle of Kavalan Solist Port Cask.

Thanks to Carsten for his reviews and comments about Kavalan. Here is my own take on two of the Solists

Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask, 57.1%, Cask B100723021A, 4 Years Old

Nose: A very fruity and floral nose. Sweet apples and pears on a bed on vanilla. A hint of marcipan

Palate. The attack is sligtly hot, but the finish is smooth. This is a sweet whisky, with an abundance of vanilla. The whisky is thick and oily. The finish has some bitterness and citrus notes emerges

Rating 86/100

Kavalan Solist Port Cask, 58.6%, Cask O090617023A, 6 Years Old

Nose: A tiny hint of sulphur, followed by a typical port nose. The ex-bourbon is rather sweet, and this is also sweet, but not as sweet as you would expect a port casked whisky to be

Palate: Sweet, faint rubber, and very dominant port influence, but not very sweet, which makes this a little different to other port whiskies. The dominant note is dried fruits, notable raisins, so the grape influence is big

Rating 83/100

I am usually not a big fan of port whiskies, but this offering is not too bad for me. I guess it's because it lacks the usual abundance of sweetness which is not my thing. Being very sulphur sensitive I pick of little hints of rubber, but I am sure this will go unnoticed by the vast majority.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


New World Whisky Distillery in Melbourne use the brand Starward for their whisky

It's a NAS whisky, made from australian barley, and matured in Apera casks. Apera is an australian sherrystyle wine, which I have never heard of before. The barrels have been re-toasted, and to my knowledge this isn't done with sherry casks normally

From this video it can be seen that New World Distillery is quite small and that they use stills very similar, but smaller, than a typical scottish single malt still

Starward 43%

Fruity, licorise, medicinal, children vitaminpills

This is easy drinkable and being a NAS whisky from a rather new distillery this is surprisingly "mature" in taste and easy drinkable. Probably a combination of the climate and the retoasted barrels. It reminds me a bit of Amrut. It's quite oily and fullbodied. The medicinal touch reminds me of something I sometimes also find in very old malt whisky bottlings from the 50s to 70s

The fist taste is the fruityness, this is a tasty mix of tropical and dried fruits. Then comes the medicinal-licorise part and finally the finish is medium long and very licorisy.

Rating 86/100

In cinclusion, this is a fruity complex whisky, with the only sign of it's youthness being a little alcohol burn. Easy drinking and delicious

Distill of Diageo has recently invested an undisclosed amount of money in Starward. This is their 2nd investment in a small world distillery. The first was 10£ million in danish Stauning

Thanks to David Keir for the sample

You can find the location of the distillery in my map section

Friday, December 25, 2015

Blind tasting 26 whiskies in December

This December I took part in a whisky advent calendar.

A group of 6 danish whisky entusiasts each hosted 4 days from December 1st to December 24th

The total ended up to 26 whiskies, as there was a couple of double dram days. Each whisky was tasted blind by the 5 others and our thoughts and possible guesses was posted on a danish whisky forum

Here is how the panel rated the 26 whiskyes. The score is an average of 5 peoples ratings. The score in brackets is mine. If there is no score in brackets, I was the host of the day

Blind tasting is always fun as there is no prejudice. I am pretty sure people might score whiskies different if they know the label.

1. Balvenie Tun #1401 batch 2 50.6% 90.6 (88)
2. Amrut Intermediate Sherry 57.1% 89.4
3. Laphroaig 25yo OB 2009 51% 88.6 (89)
4. Bruichladdich 3D Moine Mhor 2nd Edition 88.2 
5. Miltonduff 1987 Riegger's Selection 26/5/87-20/5/10 56.7% 88.0 (85)
6. Glenkinchie 1987 Cadenhead 18yo 55.6% 87.8
7-8. Macduff Cadenhead Small Batch 24yo 53.3% 87.6 (89)
7-8. Glen Keith Signatory 21yo 1/10/92-21/10/13 59.5% 87.6 (88)
9. Caperdonich Signatory 17yo 9/7/94-20/10/11 57.0% 82.2 (82)
10. Four Roses Small Batch Limited 2015 54.3% 87.0
11. Bunnahabhain 22yo Botled by Bladnoch 20/10/89-17/5/12 50.2% 86.8 (88)
12. Vatted Islay 1992 Norse Cask 16yo 56.7% 86.6 (87)
13. Linkwood SMWS 39.97 23yo 45.7% 86.4 (92)
14-15. Linkwood SMWS 39.108 10yo 61.7% 85.4 (84)
14-15. Girvan Berry Bros 1989-2008 46% 85.4 (82)
16-17. Yellow Spot 12yo 46% 85.2 (81)
16-17. Port Ellen 25yo Norse Cask 1983 53.6% 85.2 (83)
18. Bruichladdich 12yo 2nd Ed. 46% 85.0 (83)
19. Glenfarclas 2004-2013 Ermuri 55.8% 84.8 (84)
20. Caol Ila 1998 Feis Ile 2015 57.3% 84.6 (84)
21. Lot 40 83% 83.2 (82)
22-23. Balblair 20yo AD Rattray 30/4/90-26/5/10 59.1% 82.6 (78)
22-23. Longrow Red 11yo Fresh Port Casks 51.8% 82.6 (81)
24. Macallan OB 10yo Cask Strength 58.6% 82.0 (58)
25. Signature 75 proof (42.8%) from Goa 80.8 (81)
26. Glenglassaugh Torfa 50% 78.8 (79)

Here is some of my remarks. I was very glad I rated 39.97 92 blind as it was my whisky of the year 2014, when I rated it 90. It wouldn't have looked good if I rated it low eighties. The Macallan 10yi cask stregth split the field. 3/5 described it as smelling and/or tasting "rotten". 2 of those 3 actually found that positive or semipositive. I didn't and rated it 58 as it was one of the worst sulphured whiskies I have ever tasted. Peculair, as all the other times I have tried a Macallan OB 10yo Cask Strength, I really liked it.
The two highest scores went to India, as the Amrut Intermediate Sherry received a 94 and a 95
I was the lowest rater of the 6, as my average was 83.1. If you remove my 58 score I would still be the lowest rater. It doesn't help that I am very sensitive to sulphur. This just makes some whiskies terrible and undrinkable to me.
The highest rater had a 87.7 average

Thursday, December 24, 2015

24 Bars in Aarhus - part 24

Fermentoren Aarhus

Fermentoren is my regular. It's a craft beer bar that opened spring 2014 in Aarhus. It changed the beer scene in aarhus.

Fermentoren has 22 fast rotating taps.

Here is how one half of the blackboard looked on a random day in November

and here is a photo from 22nd December:

Fermentoren have beers from the best danish breweries on:

Fermentoren (their own brewery, made by one of the owners), Dry and Bitter (made by another of the owners), To Øl, Mikkeller, Amager and many more. A lot of the beers are from good danish breweries, but you can also find beers from other Scandinavian countries, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, UK, USA and probably more

There is also a big selection of bottled beers.

Once or twice a month Fermentoren has tap takeovers, where the focus is on one brewery (usually), but there has also been country themed tap takeovers.  

The music is my favourite playlist in Aarhus. Classic rock style. But played low volume so it doesn't interfer with chatting what-so-ever. 

Except for the blackboard lightning, all the light in bar is provided by candles. It's a cozy, rustic bar, with old wooden furnitures and old sofas. There is even an 80s style arcade machine in the corner.

Fermentoren has a small spirit selection with mainly whisky and rums, but also gin and mezcal

Here is todays photo of the whiskies

There is no food in Fermentoren, but if you ask nicely, you can usually bring some take-away in. There is an abundance of places to buy food in neighbourhood

22 taps

Fermentoren is the sister bar of the original Fermentoren in Copenhagen. Fermentoren Aarhus has a facebook page

24 Bars in Aarhus MAP

Cozy bar, great music, fantastic beers, nice knowledgeable staff and a lot of really nice regulars. What else can you ask for ?


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

24 Bars in Aarhus - part 23


Highlanders is THE whisky bar in Aarhus. 

Highlanders have a big selection of whisky. Most OB's can be found. It's also SMWS partnership bar, so there is a big selection of SMWS whiskies as well. The bar also hass a particular big selection of Kavalan. Beside whiskies there is also a big selection of rums

Some of the whiskies at Highlander

Highlanders is not just whiskies, they also have a good selection of beers. There is about 13 different beers on tap

Beside the tap list there is also a huge selection of bottled beers. As there is not a lot of rotation of the beers on tap I often dig into one of the bottled beers when I visit

Highlanders often hosts whisky tastings and rum tastings. As an SMWS partnership bar there is a bimonthly casual day where members can come down and taste and buy the whiskies of the new outturn.

The food at Highlander's is pub food de luxe, and it's very good

Highlander's has a website here

24 Bars in Aarhus MAP

I recommend this place, no matter if you going for a beer or a whisky

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

24 Bars in Aarhus - part 22

Krofatter's mad- og ølbar

Krofatter's is a new beer and dapas place (danish tapas)

Er den apostrof korrekt dansk ?

There is 10 taps of beers from Syndikatet and Coisbo. It's nice to see a place that offers beers from alternative breweries 

The selection and variety of beers is good. Unfortunately 3 of the taps were off when I visited.

7 taps of Coisbo
My choice of beer was a 5th Avenue lager and later Four, a russian imperial stout. The first was good, but the latter lacked a bit of sweetness and was a bit too much on the acidic side. Not the best balanced russian imperial stout I have tried.

Beside the 10 taps, there is also a bout 30-40 bottled beers to choose from

The food is exciting and not like anywhere else, but also very expensive as the portions is very small. But Tapas is supposed to be small, I think they forgot to adjust the prices to the sizes of the portions
I would say the style of food appeals to men and the sizes of the portions appeals to women or men that isn't very hungry

Krofatter's has a website here

24 Bars of Aarhus MAP

It's unlikely I would go to eat here again, but I will probably pop in for a beer very occasionally

Monday, December 21, 2015

24 Bars in Aarhus - part 21

Cafe Albert

It's daring to open a beer place outside the city center, Nevertheless, this is what Cafe Albert did in 2015. And let me be clear, this is a great place, and not something you'd expect to find in the inner suburbs. When you enter this place the atmossphere is more like a cafe in the latin quater.

Cafe Albert has around 4 taps of beer. There is some taps from Aarhus Bryghus. Aarhus Bryghus Pislner is far better than the pislners served at 90% of the bars in Aarhus. There is usually also a tap of IPA, usually from Mikkeller

The day I visited the IPA was Amass West Coast IPA, it was delicious and very fresh

Beside the taps, Cafe Albert has a medium selection of bottled beers. The selection is very varied, and very very good. It's dominated by belgian beers and beers from the danish brewery To Øl

After the Amass IPA I had one of my favourite barrel aged beers. Rio Reserva from de Struise

Followed by a saison from To Øl. All three beers were magnificient

The interior at Cafe Albert is old style living room, very similar to Vesterlauget

The place is very cozy and relaxed and judging from the pumpkin soup I had the food is really delicious

Pumpkin, chili, koriander and serrano

I can highly recommend Cafe Albert

Cafe Albert website is HERE

24 Bars in Aarhus MAP