On the one hand, the sweeter jam notes are deep, providing a really likeable foundation, and then the peppery tartness livens things up by intensifying the pace, almost a briskness to it.
Yet on the whole, it remains very structured and holds up well on the palate and is smooth and creamy, really easy to drink. Of all the whiskies I’ve tried, this is one I’ve felt a few bottles could be wiped clean in a single seating. It is a celebratory dram of sorts in fact – Kavalan has certainly hit the mark on what they’ve set out to achieve.
While I can understand the furore from Scotch purists, I must say, you should certainly try this before knocking it, it is good stuff. It redefines conventional ideas about what whiskies should taste like and rightly so! – It is a whisky made for Asians by Asians, what did you expect?
Link to review: https://88bamboo.co/blogs/the-bamboo-post/kavalan-solist-vinho-barrique-cask-strength
Colour. To be completely honest with you, I have never seen another whisky with this shade of red date/goji berry colour. It is a reddish hue that is also very translucent.
For those in Asia, you may be familiar with the dessert Cheng Tng – it shares a similar shade. Officially the color is listed as deep autumn gold, but I’d say on the more standardised whisky colour chart, it looks closer to “Vintage Oak”/”Burnt Amber”.
Nose. The nose is very distinctive and you’d think it would be more wine-y given the cask used for maturation, but not so! It starts off with very active wood, at first sharp with freshly shaved cedar or pine, very bright but fades quickly. Deeper aromatic woody notes start to form – teak and sandalwood. There is a slight bit of incense and heavier ash-y notes with much more depth.
Below that, as you let the dram sit, the fruit jam notes begin to show up. Cherry, raspberry, pears, plums, blackcurrants - very deep fruity notes. These are the sort you’d find with marmalade, jams, compote, or even baby food. Cooked fruits where the water has been boiled off and what is left is a much more concentrated and the fibres have broken down to release more sugars and aromatics.
Here and there, there are some very light notes of nutmeg, vanilla pods, hazelnuts (alittle reminiscent of freshly opened Loacker biscuits).
The palate, the fruitiness carries through, which is really delightful, very consistent with the nose, the same berries and stone fruit – blueberries, cherries, blackcurrants. It reminds me of when I was a kid and used to look forward to my daily allowance of a single cup of Ribena made from concentrate. Really brings back some fond memories.
It’s quite refreshing and punchy, not really too heavy on the palate, keeping in mind that it is bottled at a much higher proof as it’s natural cask strength.
There’s also a good amount of spiciness which contributes to the refreshing quality it has. White pepper, ginger, it is alittle prickly alongside some oak-y woody dryness that adds some tartness with the tannins that I assume is from the wine-seasoned casks used for maturation.
This works to balance each other out, where you have deeper sweeter jammy notes on the one side and then mete with a slight peppery tartness that cuts through before it becomes cloying.
It is on the whole a fairly intense but easy to drink malt so feel free to add some drops of water if you need, it holds up quite well.
The finish is fairly long, carrying through the same sweetness and spice (as we categorised it Fruity and Spicy, it certainly embodies that label). To be more specific, the sweetness comes close to Manuka honey. It also has a drying quality to it as it recedes, bring to mind polished leather and Loacker biscuits again (hazelnut praline crackers).