Kavalan Classic Single Malt

Kavalan Classic Single Malt

Distillery: Kavalan
Country: Taiwan
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

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.

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Omar Bourbon Cask

Omar Bourbon Cask Single Malt

Distillery: Nantou
Country: Taiwan
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

When you say Taiwanese whisky, you say Kavalan, right? It might be time to update that notion, because there’s a new kid in town. Well… perhaps not all that new, since state-owned Nantou distillery has roots dating back to the Japanese colonial period. It was during this time that Nantou’s parent company Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation (TTL) was provided a monopoly on alcohol production and retail, which it maintained until Taiwan’s entry to the World Trade Organization in 2002. The distillery itself was set up in 2008, not so much out of an innate desire to make whisky, but to help domestic farmers who were facing export restrictions for their barley. Now there’s a policy that would earn my vote! TTL dispatched one of their employees to Scotland to learn the tricks of the trade, while a pair of stills went in the opposite direction.

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Mackmyra Svensk Rök

Mackmyra Svensk Rök

Distillery: Mackmyra
Country: Sweden
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.1%

Part of Mackmyra’s core range, Svensk Rök translates as Swedish smoke. And that’s about all the introduction this whisky needs, for indeed it’s smoky and it’s Swedish. So Swedish in fact that all of the ingredients were locally sourced, and part of the spirit aged in Swedish oak. And if you thought this whisky couldn’t get any more Swedish, think again! True to local tradition, the barley for Svensk Rök was smoked over a fire of juniper twigs. This is a common way of preserving food in Sweden, and it’s certainly helped to produce a flavour profile not found anywhere else in the world. Some decidedly unSwedish ex-Oloroso sherry casks were also added to the mix, so we’re in for a treat!

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Mackmyra Brukswhisky

Mackmyra Brukswhisky

Distillery: Mackmyra
Country: Sweden
Age: No age statement
abv: 41.4%

Launched in 2010, Brukswhisky has formed part of Mackmyra’s core range ever since. The spirit is aged primarily in ex-bourbon casks, but sherry butts and Swedish oak are also used, making for quite an attractive mix. The presentation is equally striking, being distinctly different from the rest of Mackmyra’s lineup. Featuring assorted tools, distilling equipment and raw materials, the packaging marries Mackmyra’s premium style with a more industrious image. Indeed, Brukswhisky’s product page shows a scene taken straight from the Industrial Revolution, with Mackmyra’s hypermodern Gravity Distillery tucked into one corner. Let’s see if all this hard work paid off.

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Mackmyra Grönt Te

Mackmyra Grönt Te

Distillery: Mackmyra
Country: Sweden
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.1%

Mackmyra rightly call themselves Explorers in Whisky. For well over a decade now, they’ve been presenting us with weird and wonderful creations that other whisky makers wouldn’t even dare to dream up. At which other distillery will you find casks that previously held lingonberry wine, birch sap or glühwein? Mackmyra’s latest creation Grönt Te (Swedish for green tea) goes one step further though. For while the products mentioned above generally age in oak, tea does not. Instead, master blender Angela d’Orazio decided to season casks with a blend of Oloroso sherry and Japanese tea leaves. This mixture was then poured out, before finishing the whisky in these casks.

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Kavalan Concertmaster

Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask

Distillery: Kavalan
Country: Taiwan
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

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.

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Mackmyra Skördetid

Mackmyra Skördetid ReviewDistillery: Mackmyra
Country: Sweden
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.1%

The latest addition to Mackmyra’s Seasons range, Skördetid is Swedish for harvest time. There’s no denying that Mackmyra is a stylish company, and Skördetid could well be the most classy whisky the Swedish distillers have ever produced. This is in no small part due to a collaboration with Italian wine maker Masi, who provided the Amarone casks in which much of Skördetid spent its final 6 months. While this finish manifests itself clearly through sweet, nutty flavours, we should be careful not to give the Amarone casks all the credit. Because lest we forget, there’s also some first fill Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez at work in this carefully crafted vatting. Clearly then, Skördetid is Mackmyra at its fruitiest. The packaging too has been imbued with a splash of Amarone, with the sleek Mackmyra design overlaid with burgundy colours. Skördetid is a delightful dram that’s well worth a try!

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Slyrs Fifty One

Slyrs Fifty One ReviewDistillery: Slyrs
Country: Germany
Age: No age statement
abv: 51%

Tucked deep into the Bavarian hills on the shores of the Schliersee, we find Slyrs distillery, home to what is probably Germany’s best known whisky. Although founder Florian Stettler produced the first batches of Slyrs as early as 1999 at Lantenhammer distillery, it was not until 2007 that Slyrs opened its very own facilities, allowing them to upscale production significantly. As a result, Slyrs has garnered some more international exposure, racking up a series of awards and accolades along the way. Over the past years, Slyrs has not shied away from using European oak for maturing their whiskies, with Port, PX and Oloroso sherry finishes all gracing the shelves. But why choose, when you can simply bottle a combination of these casks? Or at least this is what Slyrs must’ve had in mind when releasing Fifty One, which is a vatting of whiskies matured in Port, Sherry and Sauternes casks. Fifty One refers to the bottling strength of this whisky, which, unsurprisingly, is 51% abv. Using that famed Bavarian malt, ageing in different casks, and bottling at a high abv… it sounds like Slyrs Fifty One ticks all the right boxes. Let’s see if that actually translates into a great whisky.

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Mackmyra Vinterrök

Mackmyra Vinterrök Review 01Distillery: Mackmyra
Country: Sweden
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.1%

Of all the intriguing whiskies in Mackmyra’s Seasons range, Vinterrök is one that I’ve been wanting to try for a while. Sure, other smoky Mackmyras do exist, but a finish in strong ale casks makes Vinterrök sound like a particularly sumptuous affair. Mackmyra ages its spirit in Swedish oak, producing a rougher, more robust flavour palette that in my opinion lends itself quite well to a smoky whisky.

Last year I tried Vinterrök’s seasonal sibling Vinterdröm, which is a good whisky that nonetheless falls short of excellence. Vinterrök is another matter. Sweet without being fruity, this dram is a bold, flavourful expression that satisfies the senses yet leaves you wanting more. In Mackmyra’s usual classy packaging, Vinterrök would make a nice gift too. Or you can be sensible and decide to keep it all for yourself, this is tasty stuff!

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Flóki Single Malt 3 year old

Flóki Single Malt Review 01Distillery: Eimverk
Country: Iceland
Age: 3 years old
abv: 47%

With its football team qualifying for  both Euro 2016 and the World Cup, its tourist numbers increasing rapidly, and a geothermal energy sector that’s pushing technological boundaries, Iceland is really putting itself on the map lately (in a geological sense quite literally; due to its volcanic nature Iceland is still growing in size). To these feats we can now add another important distinction: Iceland has become an exporter of single malt whisky. Sure, Eimverk distillery from Garðabær has been knocking on the gates for a few years now, producing award-winning gins, Brennivín and an exciting whisky spirit. But due to the whims of law, Eimverk’s Young Malt was yet too young to carry the name whisky. Until now. While I have made acquaintance with the Flóki range before, this Single Malt will actually be the first time I’m trying Icelandic whisky.

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