Kavalan Triple Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Kavalan Triple Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky Review

As a spirits writer, it’s always fun to cross off a first whiskey, rum or other potable from a new country of origin. At this point, the opportunities for me to do so have become significantly less available, but the chances still come, now and then. For example: Single malt whisky from Taiwan? I can safely say that I haven’t had that before, and neither have many in the U.S.

The distillery in question is Kavalan, the makers of a wide array of malt whiskies–like so many others in Asia, they’re primarily inspired by Scottish whisky technique, but the fact that they’ve been operating since 2005 means they’ve had plenty of time to develop a house style as well. Upon opening, Kavalan was the first non-government owned and operated distillery in the country. They now produce a dizzying array of special releases, which are honestly a bit confusing–browsing the website, it’s difficult to tell which are actually members of the core product lineup.

For U.S. consumers, though, it’s Kavalan Triple Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky that the company is using as its introduction. This is a non-age-stated blend of malt whiskies distilled and matured exclusively in Taiwan, and as the name would imply this blend is heavily influenced by secondary sherry cask maturation. Oloroso, Pedro Ximénez, and Moscatel sherry casks are all used in this particular release, which is bottled at a pretty approachable 43% ABV (86 proof). The MSRP of $100 indicates that despite being non-age-stated, Kavalan is still making a play for the luxury tier of U.S. malt whiskies, alongside high-end scotch releases.

So, with that said, how will this Taiwanese spirit compare to similar, non-age-stated but heavily sherried scotch whiskies? Will the effects of tropical aging make for a more assertive flavor profile? Let’s get to tasting, and find out.

Immediately in the glass, you can see all the evidence of the sherry cask maturation you’d ever need to–the crimson color is quite distinctive, and far darker than most any NAS single malt would ever be on its own. On the nose, Kavalan Triple Sherry Cask first presents with a surprisingly large amount of caramel, more than one typically finds in malt whiskey–an almost bourbon-evocative caramelized sugar profile. Part of this is no doubt the interplay of the various wine casks, which present a lot of bright red fruitiness here, with zingy notes of raspberry jam, cherry and fig. I’m also getting some orange citrus, and with time more coffee richness and roast are coming forward as well.

On the palate, you get more overt roastiness, with some barrel char and espresso, joined by toasted malt and plenty of sherry. Oxidized nuttiness evokes the oloroso, while the jammy red fruit and citrus leans more toward the PX sherry component. Long, lingering vanilla and dried fruit–lots of raisin cookies–are signature notes, while dueling with more subtle impressions of faint earthiness and leather. The finish is mildly bitter, and a bit on the short side, though the dried fruit does linger. Residual sweetness is pretty moderate, and this feels like a nice little treat at 43% ABV.

All in all, this is an easily accessible and quite pleasant sherried malt. It doesn’t quite have the overall depth of some of the extra-aged Scottish versions of the same idea, but it absolutely is in the same family–you wonder what it might be like with just a longer aging. Likewise, it’s not the cleanest way to experience Kavalan’s specific malt whisky for the first time, as a huge amount of the character here is being drawn from the sherry barrels, and it’s a little difficult to get a bead on the base spirit. Regardless, though, fans of easier drinking sherried malts will find a lot to like.

Distillery: Kavalan Single Malt Whisky
Region: Taiwan
Style: Single malt whisky
ABV: 43% (86 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $100 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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