I last tried this back in 2015, so this is a welcome revisit.
N: We’ve a rather excellent ‘Scottish’ style whisky nose with a dunnage-y depth straight off the bat and some boozy fruit & ginger cake which Kaitlyn Tsai tells us [the fruitiness that is], comes from the distillate.
T: With a sweet easy moreish dunnage-y depth, I’m amazed how well the 40% abv minimum works here, given we were at 60.9% with whisky #2. This is far more ‘Scottish’ than many of Kavalan’s more unique single cask [Solist] expressions, but it’s not Japanese whisky either, which has also be likened in many circumstances [forget your Chichibu’s and Karuizawa’s] to Scotch single malt. I ask [through Becky] whether Kaitlyn sees this expression as more ‘Scottish’ than Kavalan’s other expressions. Kaitlyn says some people at competitions have commented that this is like a Speyside whisky.
F: Not long, on a barley waxiness with some oaky sugars complimenting, but with a measured youthfulness and certain depth and shape throughout. A lingering dunnage-ness at the death, a Kavalan-unique vanilla cask dunnage trait no doubt bound within the complexities that come from maturing whisky in Taiwan’s sub-tropical climate.
C: A very decent all-occasions whisky given it is only around 4 years old though, in Taiwan, this is equivalent to 3/4 times the ageing. So this can be likened to 9-12 years says Kaitlyn, and I agree. I find this straight-ahead expression has vastly improved since I last tried it in 2015 [and yet another that has overtaken the current Balblair 12yo].
I pose the question ‘How have Kavalan’s recipe/methods changed since the early Jim Swan-inspired setup?’ The new make hasn’t changed. What has changed is the concentration on the quality of maturation and blending choices that are taken on by a dedicated blending team. After Jim Swan, Kaitlyn emphasised that the major concentration at the distillery was how to manage/get around the climate issues, trying to harness Taiwan’s heat, not see it as a problem.