Kavalan’s range of Solists expressions has grown rapidly over the past few years. From what could be considered as traditional styles in the form of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks we now have port, wine and brandy casks and in 2016 a myriad varieties of sherry styles were also released. The new 2016 bottlings are all fantastic, but they come with hefty (over £300) price tags, which seems like a whole new world when you’re talking about whisky which is only around 7-8 years of age. Nevertheless, the original ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry Solists are still available (as they’re batch produced) and a lot less punishing on the wallet.
Today’s Solist is bottle number 118 of 187 from Cask B090929007A (Kavalan offer a lot of precision in identifying exactly what you’re drinking). It is non Chill-filtered, naturally coloured and clocks in at a cask strength ABV of 57.1%. A quick look in Whiskybase tells me that this was a bottling from 2014.
Nose: Immediate strong bourbon that is both sweet and spicy. At first nose you could be forgiven for thinking that you were about to imbibe something from Kentucky. Butter vanilla (a lot of vanilla in fact) and a huge kick of cask spice from both cinnamon and pepper. There’s a fair whack of well-defined fruit here though – stone fruit (peach), and tropical (pineapple and coconut). Running through the whole nose is some tart citrus which combined with the buttery vanilla makes for something akin to lemon drizzle cake. The addition of water increases the perceivable creaminess and pronounces both malts and some underlying earthiness.
Taste: Full and mouth coating and fairly saccharine to being with. This fades in heavy spice (cinnamon and pepper again) and then our fruits comes out to play – overtly tropical this time – pineapple and foam sweet bananas. It’s still buttery and packed full of vanilla, but there’s some salinity here too which provides an interesting additional note. Water reduces the overall oiliness into something closer to silky, but does at the same time lessen the intensity of the fruits and spices – so my advice would be to hydrate sparingly, despite the high ABV.
Finish: Medium in length and full of drying spice.
This Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Cask is similar to its ex-Sherry cousin in that it's 100% full-on. The rapid maturation has crafted something impressively well-constructed and yet at the same time everything is so pronounced and intense that its almost an assault on the senses. If you’re looking for sherried sweetness move along, but if you’re interested in powerful and penetrating ex-bourbon cask flavours this has it in spades and then some. Not a daily drinker in terms of profile, nor price, but so utterly single-minded that it’s hard not to admire.