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Kavalan Concertmaster (Port Cask Finish) Single Malt Whisky

Review: Kavalan Concertmaster (Port cask Finish) Single Malt Whisky   77/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published April 3, 2014

Kavalan Whisky is produced by the King Car Group at the newly built Kavalan Distillery at Yi-Lan, Taiwan. The distillery features imported copper pot stills from Scotland and clean water sourced from the Central Mountain and Snowy Mountain Ranges of Ylan to produce a unique Taiwanese whisky. The first expression of their  Concertmaster series is a Port Cask finish single malt whisky which was of course finished in a variety of Port Wine casks from Portugal (which include Ruby, Tawny, and Vintage Port). The Whisky does not carry an age statement; but because we know that the distillery opened in 2008, and the fist Concertmaster whisky began to appear in Canada in 2013; we can assume the Whisky is no older than 5 years and may be a s young as three years old.

Kavalan Port Cask SAM_1096In the Bottle 4/5

To the left is my 200 ml sample bottle which has the same basic characteristic of shape and style as the regular 700 ml bottle configuration. The positives are a unique tall green bottle with vertical ribs on the sides which help me to grip it, and a nice display box which houses the whisky. The negatives are a rather bland label design and a disappointing metallic screw cap which cheapens the overall look.

In the Glass 8/10

When poured into my glencairn glass, the whisky displays itself as a tawny/amber coloured liquid which is just beginning to lean towards copper. When I tilted my glass and twirled it slowly, the whisky deposited a very thin sheen on the inside of the glass which appeared to dissipate slowly without releasing any legs. The initial breezes above the glass brought forward a pleasant fruit-like scent of sweet red cherries within a backdrop of clean oak spice. There was a sweetness in the air similar to the aroma of cotton candy and marshmallows, and as the sweetness combined with the cherry like fruitiness I was reminded of Turkish Delight and red licorice. There was also a touch of almond and vanilla in the air and a light citric spiciness; but the overall aroma of the whisky appears to reflect its young age.

I tried to coax more out of the whisky; but the breezes above the glass did not seem to change with time. The whisky was pleasant to nose, but it does not appear to be very complex.

In the Glass 45.5/60

The Kavalan Concertmaster Whisky is spicier in its delivery than the nose would have implied as I encountered a sweet grainy spiciness which penetrated the taste-buds of the palate, (and unfortunately became cloying rather quickly). Within the spice I tasted light impressions of almond and vanilla, as well as a more obvious cherry-like fruitiness which again reminded me of cherry licorice. These lighter flavours were perhaps ambushed by the grainy spice.

The Kavalan Port Cask is a light bodied, youthful spirit. It lacks the character and full flavour which would come with more time resting in oak casks, and as a result is more suited for mixing than for sipping. I decided that I should experiment a bit with a few cocktails, and I discovered that the Kavalan whisky seems to be suited very well for tall drinks, like the Presbyterian Cocktail, or the Mamie Taylor.

In the Throat 12/15

The finish is rather short with ebbing grain spice and the bitterness of orange pith. There is a touch of sweetness which helps to bring balance to the finish.

The Afterburn 7.5/10

I cannot help but feel that this Kavalan Whisky was pushed out of the door before it was fully ready to be bottled. It is obviously immature, and the Port enhancement almost seems to serving the purpose of covering over of young whisky to help smooth out the rough spots rather than adding another layer to its character. However, the whisky serves quite well as a mixer, and that of course is not a bad thing. Summer is coming, and I plan to mix a few more nice cocktails with the Kavalan Concertmaster before it vanishes into fall.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipes:

SAM_1097Polly’s Cocktail is a classic recipe which can be found all over the internet, and in most good cocktail books. I tweaked the recipe for a hot summer day and came up with the The Crushed Polly. I found the Kavalan Port Cask Whisky made a very nice Crushed Polly!

Crushed Polly

2 oz Kavalan Concertmaster
1/2 oz grapefruit juice
1/2 oz Cranberry Juice
1/2 oz orange Curacao
dash of Grenadine for colour
2 large cubes of ice

Mix everything in a blender until smooth(ish)
Serve in a cocktail glass
Garnish with a slice or wedge of lemon or  lime (optional)

Definitely a refreshing cocktail for a hot summer day!


 SAM_1025 The PresbyterianThe Presbyterian Cocktail

1 oz Kavalan Port Cask Whisky
1 1/2 oz Ginger Ale
1 1/2 oz Club Soda

Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks or Collins glass
Pour the Scotch Whisky over the ice
Add Ginger Ale and Club Soda and stir

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)





3 Responses to “Kavalan Concertmaster (Port Cask Finish) Single Malt Whisky”

  1. CBrown said

    Funny, Like you my first thought when I saw Port finish was they are slapping some blush on the kid’s face to make her look older.

    I also agree on the packaging. It makes you wonder who their target market is with that kind of cough medicine style design.

    I just received a three pack of 200ml Ichiro’s Malt whisky from Japan with different finishes and his packaging is also quite different from the norm (almost too pretty for my taste) but the contents are definitely worth the price of admission….


  2. Shaun said

    Hi, I’ve been following your blog for a while, and thought I’d suggest that you try the Kavalan Solist series. All the concert masters I’ve tried had been disappointing but the Solist Vinho, which appears to be wine finished, is very well balanced, rich and (for me at least) the wine finishing isn’t overwhelming. It’s also quite reasonably priced. The Solist Sherry can be really good, but I have heard of significant batch variation for that, and it’s a bit pricier.

    • Hi Shaun

      I have tasted a few of the Soloist whiskies and they seemed to be a mixed bag of decent, but not spectacular whisky. The young age of the whisky really shows through in all of the expressions and I do not expect I will find a great sipper until the distillery has time to properly age their whisky. The distillery opened only six years ago, and I suspect they are still working through a few kinks which might be why there have been reports of batch variation. But if a sample of the Soloist come my way, I will certainly review it.

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