Kavalan Concertmaster Single Malt Whiskey
750 ml | Starting at $95.00
Best in Class – International Wine & Spirits Competition, 2011 (so you know it’s good)
First matured in specially selected American oak casks and then finished in ruby, tawny and vintage Port wine casks. Smooth with creamy richness and layers of flavors of tropical fruit, dark berries, vanilla, sweet tobacco and candy floss. The nose is carried over to the rich bodied palate with natural sweetness and added complexity of almond, gummy bear, candy and mint.
Say hello to Kavalan Taiwanese whiskey.
Kavalan is the name of Taiwanese aboriginal tribe and the region that they inhabited, now known as Yilan County, located on the northeastern side of the island. It’s the first and only whiskey distillery in Taiwan. By a show of hands, how many of you know the story and history of the whiskey you drink? We’re about to get up close and personal on this one.
1. Kavalan is deeply rooted into Taiwan.
If you’ve never visited, book a flight ASAP. Taiwan is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Home to the infamous Taipei 101 (the world’s tallest building from 2004-2010), the finest collection of classical Chinese architecture, rich with national historical landmarks, amazing street food at night markets, innovative technologies and traditional temples and teahouses. The list goes on.
Taiwan is also known for its complex history. In the 17th century, it was invaded by the Spanish, and attacked by pirates throughout the 1800s. In the 1920s, Taiwan was under Japanese rule to transform the island into a “showpiece” colony by completely changing its ethnic identity and economic industry (as their effort to support military aggression in Pacific Asia).
Owner Lee Tien-Tsai was born into this era, growing up in poverty during WWII. It was a time of great hardships. Take it from my grandparents, who were subject to forfeit their homes, food rationing, and traded gold and valuables for a small block of tofu to feed their hungry family. Needless to say, Taiwan has been through a lot. Learning about this enthusiast’s dream of opening Taiwan’s first whiskey distillery and watching its rise in the ever-competitive industry is incredibly inspiring and a compelling story that I’m excited to share with you.
2. You won’t believe the Taiwanese drinking culture.
According to the Scotch Whiskey Association, Taiwan is the 15th largest global market by volume for Scotch, importing an astonishing 1.7 million 9-liter cases in 2015. Producing whiskey on the island was an obvious choice for the entrepreneur, who founded Kavalan in 2005.
The Kavalan Distillery receives approximately 1 million visitors per year, compared to 900,000 visitors shared across Kentucky distilleries. We know it’s not easy to travel across the world to bring damn good elixirs home, so that’s why we made it easy for you to get it shipped (order here).
3. So, what’s their secret ingredient?
Taiwan’s pure water, fresh air and subtropical heat creates a unique condition to produce and age whiskey. The heat causes an extremely high extraction of wood, producing a rich flavor and a natural dark color in a shorter amount of time compared to traditional standards. Kavalan utilizes organic, American oak barrels that once stored red and white wines. It also produces a taste different from the delicate flavors found in US whiskeys, and bitter flavors of European-made whiskeys. Simply put – it’s like nothing you’ve tasted before.
The downside of the island’s high humidity? More alcohol is lost during the process, with an annual angel share averaging 15%. Ironically, the challenge in working with subtropical heat turned into their greatest asset. Ian Chang, their world-class master blender noted:
“The heat here speeds up the maturation process through extraction of flavors from the cask into the spirit. So we estimate that one year in the cask in Taiwan is equivalent to four or five years in cooler climates.”
Well, how about that? 🙂
4. What makes the whiskey unique?
The whiskey is made in Taiwan from malted barley that is imported from Scotland. They are milled before the fermentation process, using water from Taiwan’s most pure water springs, which adds round flavors to the whiskey. The wash is distilled through copper pot stills, which results in a fruity flavor profile. Once distilled, the whiskey is aged for approximately 3 years.
Kavalan believes in using a diverse portfolio of casks to produce unique character and complexities to the flavor profile. Ian Chang, their world-class master blender, describes the single cask as single notes of music, whereas the entire warehouse is a symphony once put together properly (aww).
Good whiskey is, without question, a work of art; great whiskey is a tone poem. And here, I beg to insist, is proof. – Jim Murray, The Whiskey Bible
5. This year, Kavalan earned the most prestigious award within its category at the International Wine and Spirit Competition.
According to the World Whiskies Awards, Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique was proclaimed the world’s best single malt whiskey. The judge noted that “it’s like bourbon infused milk chocolate, and is surprisingly smooth on the palate”. It continues to gain recognition including Gold Awards from the Beverage Tasting Institute and Whiskey of the Year by The Whiskey Bible, and enjoyed by industry experts for its phenomenal quality. An additional factoid: Kavalan beat three Scotch and one English whiskey in a blind tasting in Scotland. Hot damn.
It’s definitely on the books for whiskeys to try, and I hope you enjoy it as I do. Thanks to the good folks at Saucey, you can get your hands on my favorite, the Kavalan Concertmaster Single Malt Whiskey. Cheers! 🙂
Kavalan Concertmaster Single Malt Whiskey