I’ve reviewed Kavalan and Nikka before, but that doesn’t guranantee that my tasting notes will be the same if I taste them again.

Taste is personal

I’ve been told time and again that everyone’s palate is different, that what you taste won’t necessarily be what I taste. I’ve also been told that what I taste can be different from one time to another, and I’ve found that to be true as well. And I’ve found that now I’m better able to describe what I’m tasting (or at least come up with more of a variety of adjectives) than I did when I first started tasting whisky and writing up my notes a year ago. This observation came to mind when I went to last week’s Whisky Wednesday at Gordons DTX for Kavalan and Nikka and found that I had previously tasted most of the lineup. Rather than just kick back and enjoy the expressions, I thought comparing tasting notes to what I had written before might be fun (no rest for the weary!).

I had written about Kavalan last March, and Nikka last December. Sure, there were some similarities, but there were enough differences to be interesting. The most striking example was between the Kavalan tasting notes from then and now…when I first tasted it back in February of last year, I had just started to take tasting seriously and my notes then reflect the newness of it all. My descriptors were shorter, more pointed, and less varied. Having tasted the Nikka much more recently, the differences between the notes were more style than substance…noticing different elements rather than not having the vocabulary. I also think that the setting of the tasting effected my notes…Whisky Wednesdays are also about being social, so seeing friends and meeting new people are a large part of why I go each week. I get distracted as I socialize, and while I try to concentrate on what I’m experiencing with each dram, I don’t want to be rude. It’s a fine (and fun) balance.

So without further ado (yes, you do have a lot of ado here!), let’s get to the tasting…my notes from the previous tastings in the Notes below each review.

 

Kavalan & Nikka whisky tasting lineup in boxes
photo credit: Gordon’s DTX

Kavalan and Nikka Tasting

At Gordons DTX, February, 21, 2018

Kavalan Classic

40% ABV
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Keyword: Single Malt, Taiwanese Whisky, Whisky
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Tasting Notes

  • Nose: malted barley, light honey, herbal
  • Taste: sharp start, cinnamon spice quickly rises, medium body,
  • Finish: sweet caramel candy ends with a warm tongue and green grass
  • Comments: nice to sip

Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak

40% ABV
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Keyword: Bourbon Cask Finish, Single Malt, Taiwanese Whisky, Whisky
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Tasting Notes

  • Nose: oak, vanilla, hay
  • Taste: starts sharp & creamy, light body, lemon or cardamom
  • Finish: herbal, cloves
  • Comments: clean flavor, crisp bourbon, unadorned, mellow

Notes

Hurry Up & Wait tasting notes, March 31, 2017
  • Nose: fruit
  • Taste: immediate spice, vanilla, aggressive, thinner in the mouth
  • Finish: smooths out, thins out
  • Comments: Hard to taste after having sherry aged...nothing to hide the alcohol

Kavalan Concertmaster

40% ABV
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Keyword: Port Cask Finish, Single Malt, Taiwanese Whisky, Whisky
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Tasting Notes

  • Nose: caramel and oak, cooked fruit, raisins
  • Taste: soft entry, sweet plums, vanilla
  • Finish: fades quickly with warm spice & toffee
  • Comments: sweet red fruits give a rich flavor; I like this one

Notes

Hurry Up & Wait tasting notes, March 31, 2017
Nose: mild nose, slightly sweet, not really distinctive
Taste: starts smooth, full mouth, hint of mint
Finish: fruity end, pepper tapers
Comments: not that impressive to me

Kavalan Sherry Oak

46% ABV
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Keyword: Sherry Cask Finish, Single Malt, Taiwanese Whisky, Whisky
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Tasting Notes

  • Nose: baked pears, high alcohol fumes, caramel underneath, malted barley
  • Taste: alcohol & burnt oak, coffee beans, oily
  • Finish: finishes to prunes & dark chocolate, tamarind
  • Comments: lots to taste here, most interesting of the lot

Notes

Hurry Up & Wait tasting notes, March, 31, 2017
  • Nose: feeling of lightness, vanilla, apricots
  • Taste: smoky sulfur, like striking a match striking, forceful
  • Finish: tapers quickly
Kavalan lineup in bottles
The various shades of Kavalan

 

Nikka Pure Malt

43% ABV
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: Blended Whisky, Bourbon Cask Finish, Japanese Whisky, Sherry Cask Finish, Whisky
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Tasting Notes

  • Nose: honey, oat
  • Taste:  butter, warm compote, slightly astringent
  • Finish: toasted oats, vanilla, oak
  • Comments:  so easy to drink

Notes

Across the (other) pond tasting notes, December 6, 2017
  • Nose: red fruit, clover honey, hay, peaches, white chocolate
  • Taste: light body, slightly oily, caramel and floral, slightly beachy and smoky
  • Finish: the white pepper lays on the sides of the tongue, the slight medicinal note lingers
  • Comments: lots of flavor layers because it’s a malted blend. The Yoichi side of the blend brings the beachy flavor (it sits on the water), while the Miyagikyo brings that Highland-like delicate flavor (as it’s up in the foothills of Japan). I like this one the best of the 3 Nikkas presented

 

Nikka Coffey Malt

45% ABV
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: Blended Whisky, Japanese Whisky
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Tasting Notes

  • Nose: barley, oats, hay
  • Taste: toast, sweet corn, cooked barley
  • Finish: some ashy flavor at the end, fades to mint
  • Comments: more of a toasted grain character

Notes

Across the (other) pond tasting notes, December 6, 2017
  • Nose: more pronounced caramel & grain aroma, tropical fruit (mango, banana)
  • Taste: fudgy and sweet, med-light body, a bit of pine
  • Finish: the evergreen notes fade slowly
  • Comments: a more intense version of the Pure Malt, good layered complexity

 

 

Kavalan & Nikka whisky tasting lineup in boxes & bottles

 

Re-tasting these Kavalan and Nikka expressions was illuminating…being able to tease out aroma and flavor descriptors is an ability I envy and am striving to develop. It’s nice to see how far I’ve come, and it’s curious to see how trying something more than once can produce different impressions. But just as important is accepting that none of those impressions are wrong, and that those differences in time and ability make the sip more interesting, more surprising. Let’s drink to that!

Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!

Tammy

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