One thing which is quite lacking here is world whiskies. The rest of the world is increasingly competing with the Scottish market but being Scottish there is just too much easy access to good whisky that unknown and expensive whiskies from far flung countries can seem too much of a risk. This is particularly true for distilleries which seem to be only out to recreate a Scottish style of whisky.
As I was mentioning this recently I ended up getting a sample of a Taiwanese whisky from Kavalan to try and change my mind. This is one of the more affordable and widely available versions from the distillery and my first tasting from that part of the world.
The King Car distillery produces Kavalan whisky from Taiwan. The owner of Kavalan is the Kind Car Group which is unbelievably massive. They are involved in making everything from instant noodles to wet wipes, shrimp to coffee and beer to whisky. To fully get perspective on that have a look at their promotional video.
The distillery project was started by King Car Group because the CEO TT Lee wanted a distillery to produce whisky like his favourite Scotch – The Glenlivet. To make this project work Scottish consultant Dr Jim Swan was brought in to design the production process to mirror the style of whisky with sensitivity to the climate of Taiwan. Since opening over a decade ago the distillery has expanded to another block of stills and more warehousing to grow production extensively. This will help feed the demand from the large sales and distribution network which has developed easily with being owned by a large and experienced parent group.
Back to the distillery itself though and its interesting that the master blender still visits the UK regularly to stay abreast of Scottish sector and you can read more about his thoughts in an interview after the recent passing of Dr Swan at https://scotchwhisky.com/magazine/features/15312/kavalan-distillery-memories-of-jim-swan/
The Conductor expression is a recent ongoing expression which has adopted the name of the distillery over the brand. It is naturally presented and bottled at 46% ABV with a selling price of around £70 in the UK. There is no age statement which of course makes a lot of sense. In the majority of developed markets for whisky we have been conditioned to believe single digit age statements represent poor quality to such an extent it’s far too tricky for whisky producers in sub-tropical climates to even consider referencing age on a bottle.
Colour – light orange marmalade
Nose – There is quite a shy nose with a sharp astringent nature being the most obvious thing. With some water you can peek past this and find a whole array of exotic fruits.
Palate – The palate follows the nose with more exotic fruits against this slightly hot background spirit.
Finish – For the first time there is a new flavour of mint and herbs against the fruits which makes it a very summer kind of dram. The finish is pretty short as well and the texture is not watery but also not thick and sticky either.
This is whisky in the Scottish style which is to be expected from using scottish made and styled stills and distillation. There seems to me little point in copying others when their product could be any number of wonderful and interesting things. I suppose being such a massive corporation the aim is to bring whisky to a large range of markets and take advantage of the warm climate to bring to market relatively quickly.
In that goal and in producing well made if slightly boring generic whisky they are doing a great job. There are some unbelievably expensive single casks and wine casked whiskies out there at the moment from Kavalan which I can only hope aren’t equally as cookie cutter-esque of there is going to be a lot of disappointed people opening these bottles one day.