The Dram Initiative #007 – Kavalan With Andrew Ferguson
Event Date: December 5th, 2013
It’s not very often you get to be part of a tasting where a considerable percentage of the great unwashed members haven’t already grossly overindulged themselves and formed some biased opinion on the whisky they are about to try, but this evening was an exception. Kavalan, a new whisky to the Calgary market, has just started hitting the store shelves; first at the Kensington Wine Market and now at Willow Park.
The Kavalan distillery experiences the same quick maturation that Amrut does in India. The temperatures in the slumbering Kavalan warehouses can be as high as 42 degrees Celsius. The rate at which the greedy angels imbibe is between 12%-15% annually, as opposed to the Land of Scotch, where the rate is much lower, around 2% annually. This means drink it or lose it. This also applies if you sit next to one of our Dram members at a club event, nicknamed “Long Arm Stuart”, but for a different reason.
On the frightfully cold night of December 4, 2013, approximately eight years after this expansive, highly automated Kavalan distillery was built by the King Car Group in the hot humid climate of Taiwan, the Dram Initiative sat down at the Marda Loop Community Whisky Hall to partake in one of the largest organized tasting of Kavalan single malt in the known world (well, at least we believe). The entrance fee, besides the event fee itself, included one item for the Calgary Food Bank, one of my personal, and the club’s favorite charities.
The single malts were tasted in this order:
1 Kavalan Single Malt Whisky 40% ABV. This is Kavalan’s first whisky produced and their bestselling expression. Matured in New oak, refill bourbon and Sherry casks. Approximately 3 years old and has Caramel coloring
2 King Car Whisky – Conductor 46% ABV. Single malt whisky. Blend of different Casks. The first to carry the name of the King Car Group instead of ‘Kavalan’ as their single malt whiskies have all be known as to date. Created as a well-rounded malt to represent the well-rounded Group, who operate in many industries.
3 Podium – Single Malt Whisky 46% ABV. Single malt whisky. Unlike other Kavalan expressions in that absolutely no bourbon or sherry casks were used here. Only new American oak casks and a few refill casks.
4 Kavalan Bourbon 46% ABV. Single malt whisky. Vatting of ex-Bourbon casks and reduced in strength. Provide by KWM.
5 Kavalan Sherry 46% ABV. Single malt whisky. Vatting of ex-Sherry casks and reduced in strength. Provided by KWM.
6 Concertmaster – Port Cask Finish, single malt whisky 40% ABV. First expression of the Concertmaster series. Matured in American oak casks and then finished in Portuguese (Ruby, Tawny and vintage Port) Port Cask.
The members enjoyed the first six malts, with number 5, the blended Sherry, the favorite; followed by number 3, the Podium, matured in new American oak casks.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of information provided by the distillery for these first six malts. We know they are all single malts but are unsure of caramel coloring and/or chill-filtration.
The next four single malts are from the Solist range. They are comprised of individual casks, bottled by hand at cask strength, without any coloring or chill-filtration. The name is derived from the word Soloist, as in part of an Orchestra. The word was changed to Solist as the Taiwanese had trouble pronouncing it.
1 Solist Bourbon 57.1% ABV Bottle 1 of 228 Cask# B080519070, Matured in American ex-Bourbon cask.
2 Solist Vinho 59.2% ABV Bottle 20 of 193 Cask# W080225006, Matured in used American oak wine barrel that has been recharred.
3 Solist Fino 57%ABV Bottle 479 of 505 Cask# S061127001, Matured Spanish Fino Sherry butt.
4 Solist Sherry 58.6% ABV Bottle 286 of 547 Cask# S060710022, Matured in Spanish Oloroso Sherry cask.
The Solist range is what I consider Kavalan’s premier whiskies, and it shows. It should be noted that the quality of these whiskies can change with the cask. This evening the Solist Bourbon won the show, but all four of these single cask whiskies were well received and thoroughly enjoyed.
What the famous Taiwanese-born, Academy award winning film director, Ang Lee, said about recognition within the movie industry, “In Hollywood you chart your life by Oscars”, I believe to be true in the whisky industry as well … you can chart your success by the awards and accolades you receive and Kavalan has been racking them up as of late.
Many thanks to Andrew Ferguson, our guest speaker for the evening, who gave an award winning presentation of these single malts equal to that of any performance given by the actors in the Academy award winning movie, Broke Back Mountain, directed by Mr. Lee and filmed just outside of Calgary here in Alberta.
Thank you to the Kensington Wine Market for kindly adding two new releases of Kavalan to round out the tasting to an even ten single malts. Normally we taste between 6-8 malts for the evening, but life is short, so if you have it … drink it. Also thanks to the committee and all who helped set up & tear down.
Gan bei! — Mandarin for ……… Bottoms up!
Your Humble Drudge,
– Words: Maltmonster
– Photos: Curt