As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent yesterday evening at Hakassan in San Francisco as part of a small group invited by Anchor to celebrate their impending importation of Kavalan Taiwanese whisky. We've all heard the hype surrounding these spirits and last September at Whiskyfest many of us Bay Area locals finally got the chance to meet Ian Chang and taste them for ourselves. I remember being very impressed by the selection at that time, but I was even more excited to finally sit down to a meal and give these babies a real test run.
To give you a bit of background, all spirits production in Taiwan was government-controlled until 2002 when the country joined the WTO, thus ending the state's monopoly on booze. Entrepreneurs wasted no time getting to work, as the King Car Group began laying down plans for the construction of Kavalan distillery -- named after the county in which it would be located. By 2005 they were ready to begin building and a mere nine months later they were ready to begin distillation. The first new make ran off the still on March 11th, 2006 and since that day Kavalan has been running 24/7, 365 days a year to prepare for what will surely be a high global demand for their single malt whisky.
I really like Ian Chang, Kavalan's master blender. He's soft-spoken, humble, and very easy going, no matter what type of scenario he's presented with. I remember fighting the urge to punch a fellow Whiskyfester in the face last year when he rudely interrupted my conversation with Ian and demanded his "super pour" during the VIP session. While I was getting ready to dish out a right hook, Ian calmly took the bottle of Solist, smiled, and sent the man on his way. He's always calm and collected and I really respect people who can maintain that demeanor in the face of adversity (I'm not always as professional).
Ian spoke for a few minutes last night before we tasted through the King Car, Solist Oloroso sherry, and Concertmaster expressions. He mentioned that the weather in Taiwan is much warmer and more humid than conditions in Scotland, which leads to faster maturation, and noted that at four years of age (the youngest maturity used in any of the Kavalan expressions) the whisky really begins to come around. I was very impressed by the dark, intensely-sherried, Glenfarclas-like depth of the Oloroso-aged malt, yet pleasantly surprised by the subtle, yet wonderfully-polished King Car. Unlike many young, unpeated single malts, the whiskies were in no way harsh or new-makey. However, to be honest, I was nursing a cold last night, blowing my nose every few minutes, so I wasn't in the best condition for tasting.
But that's no worry because Ian and the gang are coming by the store later today for a special tasting appointment, so I'll have a full description of each whisky and expected price points very soon! Anchor is still about three weeks away from getting everything through customs, but the wait will be worth it. There's some very special whisky coming out of Taiwan and I cannot wait for you all to taste them.