Water of Life – Kavalan Port Cask and Distiller’s Reserve Rum Cask
Where do I start with Kavalan to give the uninitiated a faint idea of what they have been missing out on?
Based in Yuanshan, Taiwan, Kavalan has firmly established itself on the firmament of top distilleries that consistently surprises and surpasses expectations with their continuous release of quality drops.
The Port Cask expression, part of their flawless Solist series, is another example for their excellence that emerges from the pot stills in Eastern Asia: Upon approach, the fabulously spicy yet sugary and citrussy aromas are captivating as they are punctured by highlights of cherries and other dried, dark stone fruits. One can tell from the get-go, that this cask strength variant has a lot of character, which unveils itself in a layered manner.
What materializes on the top of the roof is a very defined melange of oakiness that is complimented by summer berries and vanilla-forward malty undertones that rest on a foundation of milk chocolate. I specifically like the textured mouthfeel, which is defined by a nuttiness on one end of the spectrum, and red fruity berries at the other end.
As the ABV of 58.6% suggests, the Port Cask Strength packs a punch, however, it is so well calibrated that the high alcohol content is dangerously subdued and with the elongated, resounding finish culminating in a crescendo of citrus fruits, leather and zesty lemon. A powerful, rich single malt with an incredible flavour profile that will have you reaching for another dram in no time.
Now, as if Kavalan’s Solist expressions are not enough, things are taken to yet another level with Kavalan’s Distillery Exclusive Rum Cask, which – as the name suggests – is due to its rarity difficult to get a hold of with only 400-450 small bottles being bottled.
Not unlike with other Kavalan expressions, the information provided is granular and gives the opportunity to not only arrive at the cask number but also details as to when exactly it was bottled. Transparent as can be.
Compared to the aforementioned Port Cask, the Rum Cask is more subtle and, dare I say, velvety smooth with honey, vanilla and notes of pear, mango and caramel reeling you in through the nostrils. Again, despite the relatively high alcohol content, it is attenuated to the extent where it is devoid of the sting you’d get from expressions from less sophisticated distillers.
Not surprising for a Rum Cask, what materializes on the palate with a creamy mouthfeel is sweet, with sugary notes derived from the molasses and lovely balanced flavours very much reminiscent of peppery rum and oaky spice.
The finish ties in with what one would expect from a rum – not terribly long, but sweet with nice tart notes and sugary with raisiny highlights.
Summa summarum - two fantastic expressions hitting high notes on the claviature of completely different flavour profiles with the common denominator being a consistently well-calibrated, complex and simply delicious level.
Images from company website