Sunday, October 7, 2018

Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak Single Malt Whisky

VITALS:
- $119.00
- 92 Proof
- NAS
- Region: Taiwan

Though I've had Japanese whiskeys before, this is my first foray into Taiwanese whisky. I've certainly heard of Kavalan and seen their bottles on the shelves, but I never grabbed one for whatever reason. My wife, however, was willing to make that leap for me, and she bought me a bottle of the Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak single malt as a birthday gift. Needless to say, I was eager to try it.

The nose is distinctly a single malt, not unlike your typical Highlands Scotch Whisky. It smelled soft, almost floral and certainly malty. I did not get a huge bourbon presence on the nose, but I did get more vanilla than I typically find in single malts. I also got that typical pipe tobacco note that I find in Irish malts.  Finally, there was a bit of a pepper spice to the nose. Clearly, at least as far as aroma goes, there was a lot going on here.

While the nose was soft and delicate (though full of aroma), the palate was a bit bolder.  At first I got a lot more cinnamon and wood than I ever would have expected. It was a lot like a single malt with American rye whiskey qualities.  I don't know if it was the wood tones or a combination of that with the cinnamon, but it gave the whiskey a bit of a sharp bite that I found to be a bit off-putting.

As I spent more time with the bottle, though, I came to appreciate many of the complexities of this whisky. After being open for a while, those sharp edges seemed to die off. It still retained some bitterness, but it took on more of an orange pith type bitterness, and was actually welcome. I even got fleeting notes of fresh mint.

Towards the end of the bottle, this seemed to be almost entirely butterscotch, cinnamon and vanilla, however. It sweetened up significantly, allowing the butterscotch and sweet vanilla to take more of a center stage, with the sharp, dry and bitter edges taking more of a back seat.

The cinnamon and pepper spice remained throughout, giving this a bit more of a spicy character than a Highlands single malt. However, it still retained that malty character. There's no question that it was a single malt, as that buttery, almost floral character was consistent. I only wish the bourbon barrels had imparted more of an influence than they did. It seemed to have promise of lending some of those flavors to this single malt, but they either didn't lend as much, or not in the way I had hoped.

While I really enjoyed this bottle from beginning to end, it certainly wasn't consistent from beginning to end. It had a lot going on, but the flavors didn't complement one another as much as I would have liked. Rather, it was a cacophony of various flavors, some more enjoyable than others, all thrown together.

Grade: B

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