Review #93: Kavalan Manzanilla Solist

This story starts with the basis that I am a very deal-oriented person. If I see a plane flight that has 7 extra hours of flight time combined with layover time but is $400 cheaper, I will purchase that over a direct flight. It’s programmed in by now and I can’t help myself. Even when it’s on the company’s dime.

So when Michael and I checked in for our flights, he was a bit confused. We were going to Tokyo, Japan. Taiwan is far past the island of Japan by a few hours and we would end up flying over Japan. Then he realized I had booked the tickets and despaired that he had not taken over the ticket booking.

The short of it all is we sat in sardine can style, him waking me up to point furiously to us passing Tokyo on the airplane screen map, and then arrived exhausted to Taiwan, where we would spend the next 2 hours before hopping on the plane that would bring us back to Tokyo. We wandered around the airport and, as is tradition, ended up a duty free store to liberally try on all the most expensive eye creams (bonus points for finding and applying the ones over $250) and to gawk at the whisky displays. The stand of whiskies stopped us dead in our tracks. Loads of different Kavalans – some that we had not seen in the states, were lined neatly.

We grabbed our phones out and proceeded to price check and Google the relative prices in the US. The Kavalan Manzanilla is a limited Solist release and the price at the airport (I believe $200 or $225 – somewhere in that range) was far better than the $500 or so we found online. Plus, it’s duty free! The purchase of the bottle greatly mollified Michael, so when we arrived in Japan, he was in good spirits. We cracked the bottle almost immediately upon checkin. It’s a house favorite, but I have forgotten to post the review until now.

Kavalan Manzanilla Solist (Cask Strength)
The cat interrupts during the whisky tasting (you can see the bottle in the background…)

  • Score - 9/10

Tasting Notes

Nose. The rich mahogany polish that I always get with Kavalan. Strong nose of cherry cola. Molasses and Christmas spices. Raisin prune salt water. 

Palate. Stings on first sip. Orange rinds. Rich sherry. Plum. Strawberry jam. Heavy malt on the mid palate. 

Finish. Chocolate at the end. Heat quickly mellows into sweetness.

Summary Overall: 9/10. Fantastic whisky – one of the favorites in our household.

Bought for: ~$200 at Taiwain airport

Notes: We’re upgrading it to a 9 after re-tasting it again. Great whisky…

Quick overview of our scoring system

Additional Information

  • ABV: 58.7%
  • Cask: Manzanilla sherry (type of fino sherry)
  • No Age Statement


  • Kavalan does not release an age statement. For the USA releases, the bottles are generally above 4 years (otherwise, they are required to release an age statement by US law). However, the master blender at Kavalan claims that their ex-bourbon cask is ready in just 1.5 years.
  • The warm climates in Taiwan and India are claimed to be why Kavalan and Amrut release young but good whiskies.
  • Kavalan’s rise to fame: beat out legacy scotches at a Burns Night blind tasting in 2010 and then went on to win New Whisky of the Year in 2012 by Jim Murray (its Solist Fino Sherry Cask). Vinho Barrique then won the world’s best single malt at the World Whiskies Awards in 2015.

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