I've been somewhat remiss in keeping up with Kavalan reviews. We’ll fix that today by starting to explore King Car’s well-regarded single cask ‘Solist’ line of whiskies, starting with the Sherry Cask release. The Kavalan Solists maintain the classical music (Conductor, Concertmaster, Podium etc) link found across many of King Car bottlings, but with an odd spelling of the more commonly known ‘soloist’. Nit-picking aside the name is very apt as the range is made up of a growing range of single cask releases all designed to show off a particularly facet of King Car’s spirit.
The Solists range is non chill-filtered, naturally coloured and bottled at cask strength (all good things), it’s also batch produced and although the batches are quite small (548 bottles in the cask of this particular Solist) they are generally quite frequent. As such, you will find probably find variations between batches, so do be aware that whilst similar, you are going to be buying something slightly different with each new batch. Also, you’re probably already aware that Kavalan’s angel’s share is huge at 10-12% annually (due to high temperature and high humidity) – therefore, whilst the Solists don’t possess an age statement, they’re probably only in the region of seven years of age.
Today’s ex-Sherry Cask Solist is from cask no. S090610006A, and is number 377 of 548 and bottled at a very healthy 56.3%.
Nose: Pronounced, deep and rich. Dark chocolate, toffee and demerara sugars make for an inviting and sweet introduction. This is followed by opulent stewed and dried fruits – plums, figs, dates and berries. Spicing is already very present providing a solid peppery aroma with a good tang of salinity – all of which add some much needed bitterness to balance the more sugary elements. There’s a meaty quality here – hung ham perhaps? Along with a slight hint of brass polish (Brasso for those in the know) there’s certainly some struck match on the nose, not quite sulphurous, but saltpetre (potassium nitrate) maybe. Makes some sense, this does seem like it’s going to be quite explosive.
Taste: On the one hand this offers elements of a buttery soft delivery, on the other it’s a pretty full-on rich and spicy attack. Good translation from nose to mouth, but with the sweetness dialled down and the spicing upped a notch. Along with our salt and pepper there’s cinnamon, anise and cloves. This really is spicy stuff indeed. Chocolate cake, fruits and berries make for some strong (and of course expected) sherry driven flavours. Wood is quite heavy here part oaky, part sandalwood.
Finish: Long and lingering with a well-judged level of astringency (particularly so given how much oak spiced influence there is). We finish with clove spice and a return of the sweeter notes from the nose which take an age to die away in the mouth.
Nothing about this Kavalan Sherry Solist is shy. Sherry is in the driving seat from the start to finish, but somehow some semblance of order is just about maintained. Whilst not subtle, if you like a so-called sherry bomb, this is one to add to your must-try list. Quality, active casks have clearly helped mature this robust young little wonder, adding elements of flavour and depth which you’d expect from much older whiskies. However, whilst impressive flavour and character are in abundance, restraint is not on display here quite so much. The short intensive maturation this whisky has received has not rounded off all its edges. Whilst it’s rather remarkable how much has been achieved in so little time, the core of this Sherry Cask Solist remains somewhat antagonistic. Less of a sherried hug, more of a sherried punch in the face.