In the world of Scotch, port casks are typically reserved for expensive, high-end or older whiskies, presumably in part to do with the difficulty of blending such complicated flavours, but also because “gimmick, marketing, sales!”
As such, it’s surprising to see a port finished whisky near the low-end of a distillery’s lineup, never mind right at the very bottom. Kavalan’s Concertmaster (God, this naming scheme) is exactly that – the entryway into the world of Kavalan whisky while at the same time the only port finished whisky you’ll easily find outside of high end Glenmorangies (Quinta Ruban) and the Balvenies.
Port finished whisky is something I find a little troubling to begin with (read my Quinta Ruban review here), and with no mention of the length of finishing and very little other information to go on, it was with slight trepidation that I cracked open the very sexy little green glass bottle and gave it a whirl:
Okay, trepidation over. This smells great! Deep and complex. The finishing is clearly minimal, and it’s a subtlety that shows in the nose: A spicy, fruity “after-smell” that’s fairly novel to me, interesting and moreish. If I didn’t know any better I’d be convinced this was rum finished – it’s almost the spitting image of Balvenie 14. A light chocolate, some coconut. Dominated by that tropical fruit I get from its more expensive Single Malt brother.
Wowza! This is fantastic stuff. Rich, even at 40%, and incredibly drinkable. All sorts of fruit going on here – bananas, mangos, apricots. Some really nice sweetness dancing around – the bottle claims “candy floss”, which I’d have to agree with. Almost no qualities I’d chalk up as oaky – little vanilla here, not quite “caramel”. But complex, interesting and rewarding. Take that, Scotland!
A really terrific, sweet ’n sour aftertaste that lingers for a while.
My 40% sample couldn’t handle even the most hesitant splash of water. This stuff is too delicious to sacrifice to Dagon.
So wow. I was anticipating a complete let down, but Kavalan effortlessly chastised me for my lack of faith. This is a really interesting, novel, delicious and laughably drinkable single malt. Suitable for glugging any time of day, in any mood, and each time it will surprise you with new flavours and quirks.
Unfortunately (like the entire range) the price has continued to climb in South Africa – it used to be you could pick this up for ~R650, which is a joke. The current price is harder to swallow, but this is definitely a Must-Try, But Buy It If You Like It kind of whisky. I will, on pain of death, try it again at 43%. And if you’ve ever been as skeptical of port finishing as I was, check this one out! A truly educational, quality whisky.