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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Arran Port Cask Finish

Arran Port Cask Finish 01Distillery: Isle of Arran
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 50%

It seems natural to compare the Arran Port Cask with the Madeira Cask, given the similarities between these two types of fortified wine. I tend to contrast it with the different effects that an Oloroso or Pedro Ximénez sherry finish can have on a whisky, but since I’m by no means a wine expert, I will quickly move to safer (whisky) ground. Because despite their similar maturation, it’s striking how different the Arran Port Cask and Madeira Cask actually are. Sure, they share the same Arran characteristics, but underneath this there’s a completely distinct flavour profile for each.

The Arran Port Cask was aged in American oak for about 8 years, before being transferred to ex-port casks. This extra maturation has enhanced Arran’s fruity flavours even further, but has also mellowed some of the freshness usually found in Arran whiskies, substituting it for an enigmatic finesse.  Many other cask finishes have come and gone from Arran’s core range, but the Port Cask remains. While this may have something to do with the availability of casks, it’s certainly also an indication that Arran Port Cask has been a big hit. I for one am thankful that this whisky is still on the shelves, as it’s a dram I love to come back to!

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