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18 February 2015

Taste: Taiwanese Pride - Kavalan Single Malt Whisky

That movie reference
If you're old enough (like me) , you might remember this movie called "Armageddon". In that movie, a Russian astronaut exclaimed this rather infamous line:

"Components? American components, Russian components, ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!"

It's true innit? Everything CAN be made in Taiwan. Even Single Malt Whisky.

That's right. Just in case you've been living under a rock these past few years, Taiwan now has its own single malt whisky brand -  Kavalan.

The Original Kavalan Release
You might be surprised to learn that Taiwan is one of the top Single Malt Whisky consuming countries in the world. Someone thought (a local company called King Car, to be specific) that that's a lot of money going out to the Scotsmen, why not take a (BIG) slice of that pie?

Apart from winning awards & mentions in every other whisky-publication, Kavalan's claim to fame was when it beat several historical Scottish brands at a blind tasting event held on Burns Nights back in 2010. This was barely after 2 years it was in production.

What? It's so young?
Yes it is. The distillery was completed only in 2006 and the first bottle (the Kavalan Single Malt Whisky) was launched in 2008 to the local market and then only released to the world in 2013.

Hang on a minute. Isn't Taiwan's climate a little too warm for making whiskies which are remotely drinkable?
Yes, that's one of the things that makes Kavalan quite special. They keep the bottles young, at about 3 years old, because it'll taste older due the higher temperature which fast forwards maturation of the whisky (for eg, their 5 year old whisky could be in the same level as a 20 year old scotch).

Uncommon fact: their high humidity level is actually similar to Speyside's.

Distillery location on Google Maps
So what does Kavalan mean? Is Lan (lol) the name of the distillery's nearest natural water supply  or something? 
Not quite, but the distillery IS placed near spring water. Kavalan distillery lies in the northeast of Taiwan in Yilan. The name "kavalan" is a tribute to the Taiwanese aboriginal ethnic group that originally inhabited Yilan. It's supposed to have an abundant supply of spring water which flows through the nearby Snow Mountain -  this water is of course used in the distillation.  The air in Yilan is also considered to be the cleanest and most fresh in Taiwan as Yilan is situation by the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

Fun fact: the original release's bottle design takes its inspiration from Taipei 101, which was one of the tallest building in the world. How can a hot-blooded Taiwanese resist NOT supporting this blatantly patriotic whisky?

Dr Brown Coffee
You mentioned King Car founded Kavalan. A car manufacturer dabbling in whisky? Huh? 
(Un)fortunately, they have no associations with the automobile industry. Instead, the Group, established in 1956, runs several other industries like F&B, biotech, aquaculture and others. It is particularly famous for its RTD (Ready-To-Drink) coffee, Mr. Brown which is also available in Europe.

What's the house flavour profile? I want to have a vague idea before I rush out to the nearest store to get one.
Apparently, Taiwanese prefers fruitier flavours. Expect fruity, fresh, floral with mango, honey, pear and vanilla characteristics...  Almost a speyside-like familiarity.

What's available in Malaysia?

Their entire range is available - that's all 10 of them. Whoo hoo!

Kavalan Single Malt (Classic) (70cl, 40% ABV, RM325)
Kavalan Concertmaster (70cl, 40% ABV, RM300) - uses Ruby Port, Tawny Port and Vintage Port cask.

Kavalan's single cask range (at cask strength)
Kavalan Solist - Bourbon (70cl, 57.3% ABV, RM438)
Kavalan Solist - Sherry (70cl, 57.3% ABV, RM510)
Kavalan Solist - Fino (70cl, 57.9% ABV, RM1,019)
Kavalan Solist - Vinho (70cl, 59.4% ABV, RM438)

Kavalan Bourbon (70cl, 46% ABV, RM360) - reduced strength of the solist version.
Kavalan Sherry (70cl, 46% ABV, RM425) - reduced strength of the solist version.
Kavalan Podium (70cl, 46% ABV, RM390) - uses new American oak casks and refill casks.
Kavalan King Car Conductor (70cl, 46% ABV, RM415) - created as a well-rounded malt to represent the well-rounded King Car Group

All the available Kavalans in Malaysia

Chinese New Year is coming. Kavalan sounds like something I could impress friends and relatives with. Where can I get my grubby hands on them?
Kavalan Single Malt and Kavalan Concertmaster is the most widely distributed in outlets and available at whisky bars such as Whisky Bar, The Scots Jaya One, Mezze, Torii, Happers Damansara Jaya, Sam's Pub, Omakase, Blue Elephant, Aliyaa, Tavern Bangsar, among others. Of course at these outlets, the cost to you would be a multiple of the above-mentioned prices.

You can also find them available at selected Jaya Grocer stores, Jason's Food Hall, Sri Kota and Urban Fresh Setia Mall.

To get hold of the full range,  you can drop by at any Single & Available (the official Malaysian distributor of Kavalan) retail stores in Plaza Damas, Mercato Pavillon & BSC as well.

If you do get a couple of bottles for this coming Chinese New Year don't forget to invite me over for a taste okay? GAN BEI!