There is whisky and there is whiskey. Scottish, Japanese, Canadian and Taiwanese producers prefer to denote this spirit, made from a mash of fermented grains as whisky. Whereas whiskey is the preferred spelling used by Irish and American producers. Confusing right? Things will become even more complicated as a new player has entered the fray.
Steeped in tradition and offering a complex varieties of notes, aromas and flavors, the single malt Scotch whisky has garnered a reputation as a cornerstone of quality whisky. But there are whiskies produced in different parts of the world that make fine examples of this flavorful spirit and Taiwan is probably not a place most people would think of.
Enter Kavalan Whisky, whose very first bottle was released in 2008. Located in Yilan county of Taiwan, this young producer immediately made a name for itself in 2010 when it beat out Scotch and English whiskies at a blind tasting in Leith, Scotland. The greatest achievement so far came this year when World Whiskies Awards christened Kavalan’s Solist Vinho Barrique whisky as “the best single malt whisky on earth”. This catapulted the Taiwanese producer to world fame and as you can imagine, the Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique, having only been produced in a batch of 247 bottles quickly sold out.
I am one of the few lucky souls who has had the pleasure of enjoying this fine whisky, as my friend was able to procure a bottle. The nose is sweet with hints of orange, cumquat and vanilla. With alcohol content at 59.2%, the initial impression is a strong and fiery hit with notes of pepper but this quickly become subdued, giving way to berry and dark fruit followed by burnt caramel and dried plum. Finally the finish is chocolaty with burnt caramel staying put throughout and dissipating rather quickly.
I am not savant enough to rate this whisky amongst others, but I thoroughly enjoyed this Kavalan. The Solist Vinho Barrique is full of intense notes and flavors, it is a bold statement from Taiwan’s first whisky distillery made all the more special with its title as the best single malt whisky on earth.