Kavalan’s naming scheme for their whiskies is a little… odd, by Scotch standards at least. I still haven’t entirely worked out why a fair number of their expressions are named after positions in a classical orchestra – Solist, Concertmaster and, er… Podium. But without a doubt the most bizarre and awkwardly named expression has got to be “Kavalan King Car Conductor”.
This one, named after the group that owns the distillery (“King Car Group”), has alarmingly little transparency versus its Kavalan brethren. It’s hard to tell precisely what makes this one the “signature style” or a “grand masterpiece to represent and bear the name of the Group”, as the marketing blurb suggests. But rest assured that we’re treated to something “passionate” and “sophisticated”. Right.
I’m reviewing this one at a good time, having just finished off sampling a series of Kavalan miniatures representing their entry level range as well as their heavyweight single cask Solist whiskies. While their “Single Malt” expression was fairly average, I was seriously impressed with the rest of the lineup (each scoring at least an 8 on my pretentious and highly broken whisky scoring system). My adventures into Kavalan were rewarding, exciting and full of pleasant surprises… so I guess it was inevitable that I find something to ruin that track record:
While all the flavours are broadly appealing – coconut and banana, raisins, apricots, slightly woody, fruity and floral, and a soft Clynelish style waxiness (nice) – the nose is “weak”. Despite what the 46% ABV would imply, the aromas are thin and watery, and very difficult to access. Almost like it “needs salt” – there’s stuff here that I want to appreciate, but it just won’t let me – as if it was diluted or left standing in a near-empty bottle for too long.
A little chewy on the palate. Salty. Fruity – a similar tropical punch & bananas I get from both the Single Malt and Concertmaster. But… weak. Intensely bitter – I see the Kavalan website describes the bitterness as “slight and pleasant”, which isn’t to be trusted. It’s not terrible – every now and again a sip is quite enjoyable with a rich, fruity spice. But it’s struggling to compete with the bitter, alcohol-forward taste.
King Car Conductor is thin and awkward, with only the occasional ray of hope in the form of some tropical fruit to raise interest. Throughout the hit-and-miss experience I kept thinking “this is worlds apart from Concertmaster”. For less money, (and less strength!) Concertmaster delivers a superior whisky in just about every way, one that really does give the perfect insight into the Kavalan style.
I’m not excited to try this again, which doesn’t bode very well. For the love of God, don’t make this your intro into Kavalan. But if someone’s offering you a glass and you’ve already got a good idea of what the distillery has to offer, then this will at very least be a learning experience!