Kavalan Vertical Tasting: Vinho Barrique, Manzanilla & Soloist Sherry

Today we’re tasting the Kavalan Vinho Barique, The Manzanilla and Fino Sherry casks head to head. These are all high end whiskies from Kavalan, Taiwan’s premier distillery. Unfortunately it’s all but impossible to do a blind tasting because each of the whiskies is a unique hue of dark brown to purple. Alas.

Kavalan is made by King Car Group at their distillery in Yuanshan Town ship in northeastern Taiwan. Kavalan uses barley imported and malted in Scotland, and stills imported from the Glenlivet Distillery.

Today’s vertical tasting lineup. Kavalan Sherry Cask, Vinho Barrique, and Manzanilla

Kavalan Vinho Barrique

First up is the Vinho Barrique. This whisky is aged in Portuguese red wine casks that are shaved, toasted and recharred. The whisky clocks in at an impressive 57.8% ABV. Back in 2015 it won the World’s Best Whisky and firmly put Kavalan on the map.

Nose: Sweet and salty, varnish, caramel extract, citrus, orange peel and prunes. Toasty oak, rich red cabernet, spicy chili oil, plum.

Palate: Palate matches the nose. There is an intense explosion of flavor, caramel, black currant marmelade, red berries. Rich red wine on the mid palate, long oaky finish.

Rating: 9/10.

Notes: available at K&L, retails for $240.

Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask

Next up is the Kavalan sherry cask. The whisky is an outrageously dark plum & brown, like an Oloroso Sherry fresh out of the bottle. I’m not sure, but I can’t imagine there’s no caramel coloring in this one, it’s just too dark.

Nose: Sherry, sherry, and more sherry. Wine gum. Slightly damp logs. Fermented prunes, dark chocolate.

Palate: Heavy cherry and sherry notes. More rich sherry flavors. Raisin, fig, apricot, lime and citrus in the mid palate. Long sherry aftertaste. Makes Dalmore look like it’s unsherried. Light astringency at the end, fades to cocoa powder.

Rating: 7.5/10. This is a complete sherry bomb. I do love me some sherried whisky though…

Notes: this is a K&L Exclusive. Retails for ~$200.

Kavalan Soloist Manzanilla Cask

Last up is the Soloist Manzanilla Cask. We picked this one up on a trip to Japan. We took the natural route to Japan, flying from San Francisco to Taipei Taiwan (a route which took us over, and three hours past Japan). I strong armed my wife into letting me use the savings (and then some) to buy some Kavalan. When in Taiwan… This bottle was quite a find. I think we snagged it for around $290 USD, and I haven’t seen it in the states for under $500.

Manzanilla sherry is one of the world’s driest wines. It’s basically fino sherry, but from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, which is right on the Mediterranean Sea, so you get a lot more salt water influence.

Nose: Brine, sea salt immediately hit. Blood oranges, sugar, mocha and lemon zest. Compared with the last sherry hand grenade, this is subtle. Caramel, malty, some raisin here, but it’s not overwhelming.

Palate: creamy, all sorts of raisins. Richly flavorful, just explodes like the Vinho Barrique. There’s malt intertwined with raisin, toffee, fig, and plums. Long oaky finish with plenty of tannin.

Rating: 9/10, stellar.

We previously reviewed this one an 8, so upping it a point.


It’s a tie between the Manzanilla and Vinho Barrique. They’re both terrific whiskies, I just haven’t tasted as much Vinho Barrique cask influences compared with sherry, so it has a bit of new kid on the block bonus. The Manzanilla is great on its own, and hte Vinho Barrique seems like a good complement for a massive helping of hearty boar.

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