Age: No age statement
Kavalan Classic (formerly known simply as Kavalan Single Malt) has a rich history for a whisky that’s only been around for just over a decade. First released in 2008, this is the expression that launched Kavalan to international stardom. Kavalan Classic started making ripples around 2010, beating some very distinguished Scottish competitors in a blind tasting. Classic has won numerous awards since, as have other whiskies in Kavalan’s range. The distillery has not looked back since this successful launch, becoming a commercial powerhouse, as adept at marketing as they are at distilling.
So what can we expect from such a decorated whisky? For this it’s important to understand some of the peculiarities of making whisky in a sub-tropical climate. The higher temperatures and humidity in Taiwan greatly stimulate the interaction between oak and spirit during maturation. Although this results in an Angel’s Share as high as 15% per year (costly you can imagine!), it also means Kavalan’s whiskies mature in as little as a few years. Kavalan Classic is bottled after just a year spent in oak – quite unimaginable in a more temperate climate (and in fact not allowed in Scotland). Because of this, Kavalan’s whiskies retain a youthful vibrancy, while also absorbing the full spectrum of flavours that the casks have to offer. Being named as it is, it won’t surprise you that Kavalan Classic embodies these characteristics particularly well.
Colour: Dull gold
Nose: Can something smell viscous? The initial impression is sweet and syrupy, with aromas of treacle and meringues. But fortunately it doesn’t stop there. This whisky is positively packed with aromas, exuding that typical Kavalan joie de vivre. Sandalwood and cashews give way to candied pineapple and vanilla. Can’t wait to take a first sip!
Palate: The initial eagerness fades a bit. All the flavours from the nose are still there, but just less so. The caramel character continues in the guise of toffee with a nice chilli bite. Notes of freshly toasted oak give way to a strange mixture of cinnamon and mango that somehow works quite well.
Finish: Shorter than I would’ve liked, with an aftertaste of a slightly smoky crème brûlée.
Verdict: Kavalan Classic is not a bad whisky by any means, but it just never delivers on the promise of that ridiculously aromatic nose. And that’s an issue… because it’s kind of disheartening to drink a whisky that gets less exciting as you go along. Classic is Kavalan’s entry level bottling. In that sense it fits the bill perfectly: it’s a good teaser of what the distillery has to offer. Do try this Kavalan, but don’t stop your exploration there. At the same price point, the excellent Concertmaster would be a logical next step.
Value for money: 🤩🤩🤩