Kavalan distillery is located in Taiwan and is owned by King Car Group who were established in 1956 and own several businesses in the fields of food, beverage, agriculure and biotechnology.

The first Kavalan whisky was released as recently as 2008.

Kavalan distillery and whisky is named after the Kavalan tribe who were the earliest tribe to inhabit Yilan.




Kavalan, Single Malt, NAS, 40% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2011 & MMA 2013


Glass; Classic Malt

Colour; Light sunny amber

Nose: Slightly smoky glowing bonfire embers with a kind of dusty freshness followed by fruitiness care of a suggestion of vanilla and light banana.

Palate: Creamy toffee, faint caramel, honey and almond all wrapped in a fresh leafiness.

Finish; Quite long.

Overall Impression: Most enjoyable.

A Second review for MMA 2013

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour; Bright cork

Nose; An initial burst of lightly floral woodiness and vanilla soon fades giving way to a suggestion of gently perfumed, malty hay.

Palate; Definite hints of very floral hay and a faint woodiness as suggested by the nose. This woodiness is light and quite different to oakiness. There's also a slightly bitter fruitiness on the palate which leads into the long finish.

Finish; Long.

Overall Impression; I preferred the nose to the palate but it's still a good 'everyday' whisky, just not memorable.



Kavalan, King Car, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€ (believed)

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2011 & 2013


Glass; Classic Malt

Colour; Light amber

Nose: Fresh coastal air with hints of raspberry. Some 'yellow' fruit in there too, alongside a  suggestion of light smokiness in the background.

Palate: Fruity, fresh and very distinct with a hint of pepperiness. There's a very faint suggestion of smokiness and also some light flora, but it's really quite light.

Finish; Medium to long but also quite light.

Overall Impression: A very good light and interesting whisky from Kavalan.

Revisited for MMA 2013

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour; Glowing cork

Nose; Very aromatic with an unusual combination of oakiness, fresh raisin bread and a light fruitiness reminiscent of summer berries.

Palate; Raisins & coconut ... mmmmm nicely fruity and all quite intense.

Finish; Long with that lovely hint of fruity coconut.

Overall Impression; Very nice combination of fruitiness and coconuttiness all held together in harmony. I'm a sucker for coconut!



Kavalan, Distillery Reserve, 53% ABV

Peaty Cask

Distilled 2008, bottled 19.19.2015

Typical cost of this bottle; Unknown


Glass; Classic Malt

Colour; 9ct yellow gold

Nose; Floral vanilla with a mild peatiness akin to glowing peat fire embers. Also a gentle mustiness.

Palate; Smooth and creamy mouth-feel with a flavour of raisins alongside peatiness which is more vivid than that of the nose.

Finish; Medium and gently soothing.

Overall Impression; Very sophisticated peatiness.




  Solist - non-sherry casks  


Kavalan, Solist, 57.1% ABV

Vinho Barrique, Cask No.W080225020, bottle No.171 of 192

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2013


Glass; Classic Malt

Colour; Very dark, extremely dark, I guess it's a sherry cask then?

Nose: Aromatic, fruity, lightly toasted and then something caressingly gentle in the background. I'm loving it already.

Palate: Intense? You bet it is. In fact multiply all on the nose x10 and you're getting close. Also quite dry or drying on the palate.

Finish; Almost never-ending ... thank goodness.

Overall Impression: A wonderful nose explodes onto the palate to more than fulfil all promises in a delightfully strong and intense way.




Kavalan, Solist, 56.3% ABV

Ex-Bourbon barrel, Cask No.R061113061, bottle No.169 of 170

OB for Whisky Club Taiwan

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2012


Glass; Classic Malt

Colour; Rich golden with a touch of brass

Nose: Lots of very aromatic sauna (lightly scorched wood) with lots of accompanying oils on stones. In fact it's very gentle and very aromatic with that light woodiness and settles down beautifully with more time in the glass.

delightfully fruity explosion with a light fruit cocktail and vanilla which soon turns quite tingly (black pepperiness?) as a suggestion of red berries develops.

Finish; Very long with a tingly fruitiness.

Overall Impression:
A quite gently civilised nose gives way to a positively fruity explosion on the palate. It's good, very good and yet another brilliant offering from Kavalan.




Kavalan, Solist, 57.1% ABV

Ex-Bourbon barrel, Cask No.B080816080, bottle No.9 of 210

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2013


Glass; Classic Malt

Colour; Pale yellow

Nose: Floral vanilla with a suggestion of redcurrant reminding me an English cottage summer garden. Then comes a hint of wood smoke like expanding bonfire embers. Nice.

Palate: This has a massive fruit-punch. I'm thinking green apple crumble complete with custard, but also a kind of earthiness from the light smokiness.

Finish; Extremely long and featuring that light smoky fruitiness.

Overall Impression: Fruit bomb with a lightly smoky, earthy punch to add another dimension. I love it.




Kavalan, Solist, 59% ABV

Ex-Bourbon barrel, Cask No.B070604002, bottle No.208 of 209

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2011


Glass; Classic Malt

Colour; Brassy yellow

Nose: Initially fresh and light but quite difficult to identify as it seems rather 'foody'; raost pork maybe?  This soon expands to include suggestions of cherries and vanilla, something slightly herbal too, but always light and subdued.

Palate: Creamy vanilla with a slightly dry or bitter fruitiness. Why am I reminded of vanilla and melon flavoured ice cream? Nice.

Finish; Long, fruity and slightly dry.

Overall Impression: Very good, I really like this Solist.




  Solist - sherry casks  


Kavalan, Sherry Oak, 46% ABV

Oloroso Sherry Casks

Kavalan OB exclusive for LMDW

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2013


Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Very dark, liquorice, treacle toffee, ebony.

Nose: Suggestion of wood and leather giving it a deep luxurious richness, then dark cherries and plums for fruitiness. It's rich, deep, aromatic and all lightly toasted too.

Palate: Lots of dark fruitiness, furniture polish, aged oak and then that overall sense of being lightly toasted. Marvellous.

Finish: Very long and rich, does it have to end?

Overall Impression: Wonderfully rich and lightly toasted without being over-cooked. Bloody good? More like bloody Great!




Kavalan, Solist, 57.8% ABV

Sherry Cask, Cask No.S060821049, bottle No.201 of 512

Bottled exclusively for LMDW

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2013


Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Beyond dark, almost black.

Nose: A truly surprising note here when I suggest it's mildly maritime. Then I detect a light rubberiness. Slightly sulphured? Perhaps but in a very pleasant way. This nose is unbelievably rich, I'm loving it.

Palate: Heavy, rich, massive, dry, toasted, earthy. Just enormous.

Finish: Extremely long and toasted. I could sit here all day by the fireside.

Overall Impression: The palate says it all; enormously marvellous.



MMA2015 Supreme Champion,

Supreme Winner Premium Category

and Gold Medal Winner

Kavalan Solist Cask No.S060904024


With a colour of rich dark treacle toffee, bordering almost on ebony this whisky is positively glowing as it proudly exudes its sherried attributes. Remember this is natural colour and non chill-filtered.

The Nose immediately suggests rich roasted coffee, followed shortly afterwards by black cherries and raisins. Are there also hints of dark chocolate and toasted tropical fruits in there too? Maybe. What I do know is that this is wonderfully rich, deep, aromatic and with further suggestions of even more hidden depths to be found.

The Palate is fantastically smooth with a mildly dry mouth-feel preceding an explosion of Arabica coffee shielding a gentle, mostly almond nuttiness and the most wonderful dark chocolate, rich in cacao. This is all just so bold and inviting in the way only a truly great sherry cask matured whisky can be.

The Finish is long-lasting and I sit here just wanting it to continue forever.

Overall Impression this just offers so much richness and quality but yet with subtle hints of so much more. It's a true Great by a country mile!



Best Sherry Cask (joint winner)

Premium Category

and Gold Medal Winner MMA 2015

Kavalan Solist Cask No.S081229019


The colour is one of dark toasted oak, not quite so ebony-like as the previous one (cask S060904024) but still rich, dark, clean and almost glowing.

The Nose is a little slow to develop here, but give it a little time and your patience will be well rewarded firstly with hints of creamy chocolate. In fact I'm reminded of a particularly rich and heavy hot chocolate in a certain Italian cafe in Meran, Süd Tirol. A little more patience is equally rewarded with the suggestion of mild coffee and an almost smoky, oaky fruitiness.

The Palate offers some delightful creaminess in the mouth-feel as the hints of chocolate and coffee transcend from the nose into the palate. Then comes that fruitiness, not just cherries, raisins and maybe currants, but something quite tropical in character. Finally, some caramel-style traits lead into the finish which is long, rich and creamily luxurious with that cherriness, coffee-ness and chocolatey-ness.



Best Sherry Cask (joint winner)

Premium Category

and Gold Medal Winner

Kavalan Solist Cask No.S081229020


The colour offers rich, very dark oak with an almost freshly-polished glow.

The Nose quite unbelievably initially suggests creamy Brasso. Did I really say that? A nose that reminds me of a renowned (UK) brass polish? Well, yes it does, but that's not a bad thing as I'm reminded of trips and holidays to my beloved Yorkshire Dales and the wonderful outdoor adventures of those heady times whilst staying in an old coaching house turned into outdoor centre par-excellence. The Brasso soon fades to be replaced by a light fruitiness which almost has a syrupy character with a hint of tinniness? Oh my, Brasso and tins? I guess what I find here is more akin to one of those cans of fruit cocktail that were so popular in the 70's & 80's. Again not a bad thing, just my olfactory senses playing tricks with more long-forgotten memories and experiences.

The Palate has a slightly dry woodiness which soon expands to include a suggestion of fruit cocktail, but unlike the nose this is much more exotic with hints of mango and papaya alongside dark cherries and all swimming in fresh double cream. There's also a mild (black-) pepperiness which complements everything rather nicely.

The finish has a medium length but is filled with that tropical fruitiness and just the slightest hint of pipe tobacco right at the end.


Overall Impression(s) These last two Kavalans are actually sister casks and both OB bottlings for Asia Palate Association. Having said they're sister casks, they are quite different in character with S081229019 starting a little slowly but then opening to offer lots of rich, typically sherried delights. In slight contrast S081229020 is lighter and perhaps more fruity, especially with that exotically fruity character and mild pepperiness on the palate. They're both fantastic whiskies but for me the lighter S081229020 just has the edge over S081229019. Could it be that Brasso memory? Quite possibly.




Kavalan, Solist, 55.6% ABV

Pedro Ximenex

Typical cost of this bottle; Unknown


Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Very dark oak

Nose: Furniture polish, English Christmas cake with all those rich dark fruits like raisins, cherries, almonds and all sweet and toasted. Fantastic.

Palate: Smooth mouth-feel whilst being richly intense with all the delights from the nose extending to the palate.

Finish: Everlasting, rich and delightful.

Overall Impression: One of the best whiskies I've had the pleasure to try. By far my best Kavalan. Great!






Kavalan Distillery Selection




The Kavalan distillery selection, or set,  is a selection of ten different distillery expressions or cask types used by the distillery and I'm told by the kind person who sent me them that this set is only available at the distillery. It comes as a collection of ten 5cl tubes presented in a cylinder with each tube placed in a deep foam base for protection against breakage.

The ten expressions are named as follows; Podium, Brandy Oak, Wine Oak, Peaty Oak, Single Malt, Concertmaster, Bourbon Oak, Fino Sherry Oak, Sherry Oak and King Car. I am listing them in the order that I tried them and not in an order of preference, that will come at the end in my conclusions. Also none of these samples are listed as single cask offerings, just generic cask types by name and %abv.



  Podium 46% abv  

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Rich dark gold

Nose: Lightly floral with hints of nuttiness reminding me of marzipan but there's also something a little musty in the background hinting at old books perhaps in a private library.

Palate: Very creamy and smooth mouth-feel but also mouth-coating or filling and chewy with nuttiness and a faint suggestion of coconut.

Finish: Very long and chewy.

Overall Impression: Delightfully nutty and chewy from an expression that was unknown to me but I feel a little shopping spree coming soon.


  Brandy Oak 54% abv  

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Golden with a hint of amber

Nose: Lots of wood, wine and cognac suggestions hinting at a semi-sweetness then after 3-4 minutes in the glass some rubbery aromas develop.

Palate: This is big and mouth-filling as it spreads across the palate with a tingly richness. It suggests a kind of woody, winey nuttiness and did I say it's big? It's massive and meaty.

Finish: Medium length as the initially 'massive-ness' of the palate fades to normal.

Overall Impression: Indeed enjoyable.


  Wine Oak 54% abv  

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Teak bordering on dark amber

Nose: There's a woodiness complete with hints of furniture polish. It's rich and musty with a fruitiness in the background.

Palate: Mouth-filling with a rich dark fruitiness whilst retaining a distinct winey-ness More akin to red rather than white wine.

Finish: Rich and medium to long.

Overall Impression: Very rich and winey with lots of delicious character.


  Peaty Oak 53% abv  

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Rich dark oak

Nose: Musty with a very delicate and light smokiness and faintly perfumed in the background.

Palate: A very smooth and mellow mouth-feel as it gently expands across the palate. There's a sweet woodiness but it isn't exactly smoky or peaty.

Finish: Medium length and maintaining a creamy mouth-feel.

Overall Impression: Nice whisky but peaty cask? Maybe the cask itself was but..........


  Single Malt 40% abv  

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Golden

Nose: Musty and coppery with a suggestion of warm oats. Porridge? Hints of cardboard too.

Palate: Suggestions of biscuit and berries offering a strangely fruity metallic-ness.

Finish: Short to medium length.

Overall Impression: Decent but innocuous and inoffensive, nothing special.


  Concertmaster 40% abv  

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Light amber

Nose: Very aromatic with some mild and gentle metallic hints. It's light but wait a minute ..... surely not? Yes it offers suggestions of tomato ketchup crisps that used to be available in England. Are they still?

Palate: Light, floral and semi sweet with a hint of mild creamy toffee (Werthers?). Is that also a suggestion of apple pie?

Finish: Long

Overall Impression: Delightfully aromatic, floral and gentle, complete with a memory of tomato ketchup crisps.


  Bourbon Oak 54% abv  

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Golden yellow

Nose: Tingly with suggestions of malt, biscuit and a mild woodiness.

Palate: Creamy but tingly mouth-feel with a distinct suggestion of apple, perhaps even apple pie / crumble and custard. Vanilla too.

Finish: Medium to long and gentle.

Overall Impression: Lovely 'honest' bourbon cask whisky.


  Fino Sherry Oak 54% abv  

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Rich and dark yellow gold.

Nose: Sweet woodiness with a light suggestion of furniture polish. The sweetness somehow reminds me of liquorice allsorts then after a fewminutes in the glass it turns more savoury and offers a hint of roast pork.

Palate: Savoury and tingly but with that background sweetness suggesting liquorice allsorts.

Finish: Very long and tingly.

Overall Impression: Lovely whisky but also quite surprising as I didn't expect some of these characteristics from 'Fino' sherry.


  Sherry Oak 54% abv  

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Very, very dark. Treacle toffee.

Nose: My initial thought is 'toasted, richly toasted' coffee beans, perhaps even burnt. Also very dark chocolate, wood and old stressed leather.

Palate: Lots of rich dark coffee and chocolate but only mildly toasted on the palate.

Finish: Medium length but very rich.

Overall Impression: Excellent sherry cask whisky, rich, toasted and only a verey mild hint of sulphur which actually helps the experience for me.


  King Car 46% abv  

Glass; Classic Malt

Colour: Rich golden / oak

Nose: Sweet with my initial thoughts tending towards those little fruit salad chewy sweets I enjoyed as a child, but then I detect a hint of coconut and tend more towards liquorice allsorts and particularly those square (white and yellow) sandwich-style ones.

Palate: Yes, sweet, coconut, liquorice so definitely those square liquorice allsorts.

Finish: Long, sweet and rich.

Overall Impression: Lovely depth of character and as I've mentioned previously I'm a sucker for coconut.



Distillery Set - Conclusions


I've been sampling these lovely whiskies over the past 3-4 weeks and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience as it's not so often one gets the chance to try so many different expressions from the same distillery in what is a comprehensive H2H.

For me there were three stand-out expressions; Sherry Oak, Wine Oak and Podium.

I'm not surprised by the sherry oak as Kavalan is renowned for their Solist single sherry casks which are almost always stunning, but the fact that the generically named wine oak matched the sherry was a very pleasant surprise. Then the wonderfully light, floral and nutty Podium was an eye-opener and I'll definitely be re-visiting this one.

It also wasn't a great surprise that the single malt was a little lacking in character as it's bottle at 40% and it shows. 46% would have made it a much better experience. Then I was a little surprised by the Peaty cask which wasn't really peaty at all.

I don't usually publish my scores here on my website but on this occasion I'm making an exception, so here goes:

  Sherry Oak 87 pts  
  Wine Oak 87 pts  
  Podium 86-87 pts  
  Concertmaster 86 pts  
  Bourbon Oak 86 pts  
  Fino Sherry Oak 85 pts  
  King Car 85 pts  
  Brandy Oak 84 pts  
  Peaty Oak 81 pts  
  Single Malt 80 pts  

Finally a very big and heart-felt "Thank You" to the very kind person who sent me this set, let's just call him "M".

Some years ago I received a general enquiry via my website and was only too happy to help the gentleman and we became online friends but have never been able to meet as he lives in Taiwan and I'm in Germany. Anyway we've kept in contact and then one day a package arrived in the post from him and I was delighted to find this Kavalan distillery selection as the contents. That was also a few years ago and I guess I just waited for the right time to sample them. That time has been now and what a lovely treat it's been so dear M, thank you indeed.






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