Kavalan Whisky Review - Is it worth staying up till 2.15 am for?

Updated: Feb 18

You Can Check out Full Range of Kavalan for Sale Here.

Check out my Reviews of 6 Kavalan Whiskies on My YouTube Channel.

Kavalan Whisky was established in 2005 and is a favorite not only in Taiwan but worldwide today. It has been picking up some top awards with its young flavorsome whiskies. Mostly driven by sweetness of tropical fruits characters. But their investment and focus on particular cask type ageing is winning hearts all over world. Well known for its absolute Sherry Monsters. There single cask ex-Bourbon and various wine cask ageing is phenomenal too.

I am no stranger to the wonders of Kavalan Whisky Range.

Love affair started with Kavalan Solist Oloroso Sherry Single Cask Strength. It annoyed, intrigued and wowed me in that particular order with great depth for a relatively young whisky.

I remember sharing it with some friends at a whisky tasting over 18 months ago, well no one liked it, except me. They thought it is too powerful and intense and annoyed them with its intense spicy characters. Unfortunately, these particular friends approached it without caution, well none of us knew what we were in for. What laid ahead in terms of intensity. I had heard stories of Kavalan Solist being one of most intense whiskies on market.

But I neither agree or disagreed with them on that day. Vowing to dig deep and try more expressions to make an opinion for myself.

A quick scan of the globe will point to one obvious fact, Taiwan is relatively hot and humid. Well compared to long winters of Scotland & Ireland which are perfect for slow long maturation. Taiwan subtropical climate results in powerful and much quicker maturation of Kavalan whiskies.

I finally got a chance to try 6 different Kavalan expressions together before a whisky tasting in Auckland.

  • Kavalan Distillery Select 40%

A whisky aged in re-filled barrels. This is an entry level Kavalan priced at just under $100 in New Zealand. Beautiful bottle, during review I could see reflection of my camera set up on the bottle quite clearly.

Like most Kavalan this is a non-age statement whisky release. Released at 40% abv.

Quite sweet on the nose, I can’t find information on what barrel types have been used. But Kavalan clearly states they are using second fill barrels for this release.

But the sweetness on nose keeps luring you in. Lovely tropical fruits and hint of ripe bananas. With a little bit of caramel, and quite buttery. I tried my best to find mango on nose but could not find it.

On the Palate, it is very interesting. There is significant oak character there for a young whisky. Oaky character was prominent with layers of honey sweetness, keeps on lingering. Sweetness also of fresh apples. Very similar to a good easy drinking Scotch Speyside Whisky.

Finish is short to medium with lingering honey and caramel characters.

  • Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish 40%

A whisky aged in American oak barrels initially and then finished in port barriques. The port barriques are sourced from Portugal, using a combination of Ruby Port, Tawny Port & Vintage Port Casks. Marriage and use of all these different barrels are “The Concert “. Like select it is also bottled at 40% abv.

On the Nose: I got cherry straight away or red grapes. Then followed by rich tropical fruits sweetness. Little vanilla lingers and little bit of honey. Very easy to nose and keeps luring you in with its amazing sweetness.

On the Palate: surprisingly again I found oak characters first for a young whisky. Its quite warming on the palate, with hints of cherry starting to come through. It is very pleasant with gentle sweetness settling in. it is definitely not as sweet as some of Scottish port cask finished whiskies, I have tried. Makes me want to try the Kavalan Solist Single Cask Strength Port Cask.

Finish: quite pleasant but short to medium at best.

  • Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak 46%

I had previously tried the Kavalan Solist ex-American Oak Single Cask Strength. So was curious to try the tamed 46% release. It is the same exact aged whisky as Solist but cut down with local spring water. As name suggests whisky is aged exclusively in ex American bourbon barrels. Like all other Kavalan it is quite beautifully packaged.

On the Nose: Lovely honey straightaway, with hints of vanilla. It is not oaky like the first 2 I tried.

On the Palate: rich sweetness with a battle going on the palate with various flavors. I got a solid taste of lychees, making me drool but left me absolutely drooling. Quite creamy.

Finish: This whisky has been cut down with spring water to perfection. It lingers on the palate for a long time.

  • Kavalan ex Sherry Oak 46%

Like the Kavalan ex American Oak, this is the Solist Sherry Cask Strength cut down with local spring water. The deep colour of it is absolutely hypnotizing, 100% natural colour. Before trying it, I was not sure if it will stack up to its older brother which can be very challenging for novice drinker. But it is phenomenal dram that gives you amazing balance of sweetness, spice and has incredible depth.

On the Nose: Seems quite tamed on first nose and took a while to open up. Lovely raisins and spice characters start to emerge finally. Didn’t seem as oaky as the Solist.

On the Palate: It feels bit tamed and gentle if you had the pleasure of trying Solist Sherry Oak first. Spice starts to roll back and forth. Ripe plums in between the spice. Gentle Sweetness is lovely.

Finish: It is very satisfying and gives you a lot to reflect on with a medium finish.

  • Kavalan Solist Oloroso Sherry Single Cask Strength 57.8%

I was so happy to re-visit this sherry bomb. I had forgotten how deep it is in color it is, 100% natural color. So dark and thought provoking. The color of this single sherry cask aged whisky sums how quickly and phenomenally whiskies can age in Taiwan. It looks like liquid dark chocolate.

On the Nose: Raisins are there straightaway; it opens up slowly. Does not jump up at you slowly releases cinnamon, pepper and little briny.

On the Palate:Very oaky, the spice and sweetness are conflicting with each other. This is a beast that you have to fight. The flavors are powerful and bold compared to a scotch whisky. The richness of Oloroso sherry cask is very obvious.

Finish: The spice lingers for a very long time.

  • Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Cask Strength 57.1%

I am not a big wine drinker but I enjoy on occasion big bold red wines. Well Kavalan somehow has got hold of barrels that have been used to age both White & Red Wines and then re-toasted. I have of late thoroughly enjoyed scotch whiskies aged in particular French wine barrels. So knew this would have good bones. It had won the Best Single Malt in the world 2015. I had to warm up my palate up with 5 other Kavalan whiskies. It is very deep in colour, not as much as the Shery Oak or Solist Sherry.

On the Nose: This is one whisky I could nose forever. There is sweetness but interestingly dark chocolate. A hint of ginger. I was not able to differentiate the sweetness individually just kept luring me in.

On the Palate: The flavours were all over the place. Like a child running around a candy store not able to decide which one they want. There is a lot going on. Fresh fruit characters, like apple and pear. But an intense spice driven character at back of palate. Sweetness comes in waves and intrigues me looking for more flavour profiles. The gentle spice made me very happy.

Finish: Is very satisfying and long. There is a delicious sweet after taste that lingers for a very long time.

Final Verdict

I have yet to come across a Kavalan release I did not enjoy. They are very beautifully presented not that should determine how you buy your whiskies.

I am of firm belief Kavalan as a brand is happy to sell lot less but not compromise on quality of spirit and barrels, they are using to age their whiskies in.

It is not cheap though, with Select starting at $98 you are saying to a very long list of Scottish, Irish and American whiskies for well under the $100.

I do believe the magic with Kavalan lies in there Solist Range which is simply phenomenal. But starts at around $230 with the Solist ex Bourbon Oak.

The single cask range is something to be cherished but take your time with it. They are very complicated multi layered whiskies that reveal there truth very slowly.

Couple of standout things for me was how good the ex-Bourbon Barrel is despite being bottles at 46%.

And how amazing the Vinho Barrique is.

Ash Parmar


On this particular night i got home quite late.

There had been an unfortunate death in family in India. I finally got to have a brief video chat with my family back in India. Which left me quite disturbed and upset. After rolling around in bed for 90 minutes i gave up on trying to sleep.

I had these 6 Kavalan bottles in my Truck ready for first LinkedIn Whisky Club of 2020.

So exactly at midnight i got stuck into reviewing these 6 outstanding Whiskies which helped take my mind off tragedy at hand.

And at about 2am on 13th Feb 2020 i discovered Kavalan Vinho Barrique.

You Can Check out Full Range of Kavalan for Sale Here.

Check out my Reviews of 6 Kavalan Whiskies on My YouTube Channel.




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© 2019 - Ash Parmar

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