For the past decade, Kavalan has been producing some of the world’s most acclaimed, high-end sipping whiskies. Kavalan Distillery Select, however, is an entry level Taiwanese whisky that’s made for those looking to mix up a cocktail or to pair with night market snacks, like fried chicken.
Entering at a lower price point ($65 USD) than the Taiwanese distillery’s other whiskies, Kavalan Distillery Select offers fans the opportunity to see how the brand’s iconic flavor profile–think tropical fruit, toffee, and honey–can be enjoyed in your favorite cocktail. It also acts as an entry point to those who might want to give the more expensive sipping varieties a try down the road.
In this week’s Bottle Breakdown, we caught up with Brand Ambassador Kaitlyn Tsai to discuss the Distillery Select, find out what makes it special among the distillery’s various offerings, and learn what she likes to pair the whisky with.
Spirited Zine: The Kavalan Distillery Select was the first whisky from Kavalan designed for mixing. Why did Kavalan want to make a whisky specifically for cocktails?
Kaitlyn Tsai: We hope Kavalan is open to everyone as long as you are at the legal drinking age! I would have to say the sheer range of whiskies we have in the Kavalan range, means we can attract a broad audience. Therefore, we created Kavalan Distillery Select bottled at 40% ABV, meaning it is perfect for sharing with friends and family – actually they are suitable for any occasion. These are also favourites with mixologists as they work well with mixers and in cocktails. So we have a growing customer base who have first tasted us in bars and then may want to try our higher ABV whiskies as a drink on their own.
SZ: What makes a mixing whisky different from a sipping whisky?
KT: With Kavalan Distillery Select, what we try to showcase is the most fundamental qualities of Kavalan—the tropical fruitiness, a bit of toffee sweetness, with this very nice honey type of character—without too much influence from the previous fill and without too much influence from the cask itself.
Inside, you can nose a very nice green apple, mango, cherry, and also pineapple. And on top of that, you have honey and vanilla, without too much influence from the wood. The woodiness is just the right amount. It’s lighter and more fragrant.
SZ: Kavalan’s Distillery Select is also formulated specifically for the American market. How does America’s taste preferences differ from those in Asia, Europe, and other locations where Kavalan is sold?
KT: When you taste Kavalan you may find the rich body and distinct characteristic floral notes on your nose and tropical fruit flavours, such as mango, pineapple and banana on the palate. This is because we wanted to create the characteristics of our whisky to reflect the natural environment of Yilan: rich in tropical fruitiness – the flavours of apple and mango in particular – and with a floral fragrance – the Taiwanese orchids grown in Yuanshan, Yilan. In fact all these characteristics are very desirable to both Western and East Asian drinkers, we receive lots of positive feedback on the fruity notes, smoothness and complexity from our customers, participants at the shows and events throughout the world.
SZ: What did Kavalan do differently when it came to approaching the creation of Distillery Select in comparison to its other releases and what were the challenges it ran into?
KT: Unlike other Kavalans, Kavalan Distillery Select is flavor-oriented entry level whisky. Kavalan Distillery Select looked at subtropical fruits like mango, pineapple, and green apple.
DS comes from a great variety of refilled casks. Those refilled casks are usually regarded as inactive casks in cold regions. Since we are located in the subtropical zone, the heat can help extract the flavour compounds and colours from the wood. It smells like calvados, apple brandy, fresh apples along with layers of ripened subtropical fruit notes. On the palate, the body consists of the delicately silky and creamy sweet butterscotch, toffee and vanilla.
SZ: According to Taiwanese rules, whisky must be aged for a minimum of two years. While the Distillery Select does not provide specific information on the aging of this whisky, it certainly presents as having some oak treatment. Can you tell us a bit about the aging of this whisky?
KT: All Kavalan whiskies are matured a minimum 4 years to meet all the requirements for export.
SZ: What’s your favorite way to enjoy Kavalan Distillery Select? Are there any cocktails that you think work particularly well with the whisky?
KT: I love to drink it both neat and in a cocktail likea Blood and Sand. We replace the traditional Scotch with Distillery Select and split the usual orange juice into two with lemon juice and Grand Marnier. The result is even more of an aromatic kick to an already feisty cocktail. But it’s tempered with the caramel smoothness of our award-winning Distillery Select. I find it irresistible!
- 15ml Kavalan Distillery Select
- 15ml Heering cherry liqueur
- 15ml Carpano Antica
- 15ml Grand Marnier
- 7.5ml lemon juice
SZ: When you drink the whisky, what do you like to pair it with and when do you think it’s best to enjoy it?
KT: In Taiwan I would suggest pairing Distillery Select with night market snacks such as crispy, juicy fried chicken and smoked braised snacks. I’m sure there are many American versions of these foods! They match well with the tropical fruits and toffee flavors from the DS. I tried it with steamed fish and ginger, which also turned out really great. I find the smooth finish with a hint of caramel can bring out the natural sweetness of seafood.
To buy yourself a bottle of this Taiwanese whisky, head over to ReserveBar.
Previously, we caught up with Kaitlyn to discuss Kavalan’s history, distillery, and recent releases.