Age: No age statement
Of all the excellent whiskies in Kavalan’s range, the Concertmaster Port Cask Finish has become my go-to expression. Part of this has to do with the price tag: the Concertmaster is much cheaper than Kavalan’s luxurious Solist line-up, yet only a little bit more expensive than the entry-level Kavalan Single Malt or Distillery Select. But ultimately it’s quality that counts. This Taiwanese treat is packed with flavour, exhibiting a richness that belies the fact that it has matured for less than a year. It won’t come as a surprise to you that Taiwan has a completely different climate than the Scottish Highlands. The heat and humidity mean that Kavalan’s casks have an Angel’s Share of up to 15% per year, greatly accelerating the spirit’s interaction with the oak. As a result, the port pipes have left an indelible mark on the whisky, while doing little to restrain the youthful character of the spirit. The result is an intensely rich yet lively whisky, perhaps lacking in subtlety somewhat but bristling with character.
Quite why this whisky is called Concertmaster I can’t say, but it does fit with the orchestra themed bottlings in the range (think Solist, Conductor, Podium). I suppose the executives at King Car appreciate fine music as well as a good dram, and as long as they keep churning out quality whiskies I honestly don’t care what they name them!
Nose: Quite lively, even impatient somehow. Sweet, fruity aromas have the upper hand, showcasing ripe forest fruits and plums. There’s also an alcoholic quality to this Kavalan, married with a hefty dose of spice. The whole thing is reminiscent of a spicy apple crumble, as notes of cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon give way to hazelnut and malty grain husks.
Palate: Pungent and rather sweet, with a lot more spice development. Notes of nutmeg and white pepper give way to toffee and molasses. There’s quite a lot of flavour intensity, which builds up towards the finish. This isn’t a smooth or refined drop of whisky, but it’s quite fun!
Finish: Reasonably long, with another rich explosion of spices. Some fruity notes shine through, as oak and toasted malt combine to provide a pleasantly bitter aftertaste.
Verdict: Concertmaster is a youthful, eager dram, ready to show off its port maturation. While usually young whiskies cloud themselves in smoke to mask any impurities, Concertmaster hides behind a shield of oak. Yet if you were to taste this dram blindly, you would have no idea that this spice bomb is too young to even call itself whisky in Scotland. There’s a lively richness to this Kavalan that really stimulates the senses. Although the Concertmaster can’t live up to the excellent Solist Port Cask, it’s a fun, vibrant whisky that provides a nice intro to what Kavalan has to offer.
Value for money: 🤩🤩🤩