This stop in our exploration of the world’s whiskies takes us to one of the new kids on the block, and perhaps the most en-vogue whisky-producing country today: Taiwan.
The country’s first and only whisky distillery, Kavalan, has seen remarkable success in a very short space of time. Encouraged by Taiwan’s healthy appetite for Scotch, conglomerate King Car Group established the distillery in 2005 and only released its first bottling in 2008. Yet Kavalan is now a formidable player in the world of whisky, with its Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique recently crowned the World’s Best Single Malt at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards. Matured in casks that have previously held both red and white wines, the expression was described by the judging panel as “like bourbon infused milk chocolate” and “custard creams”.
Kavalan has worked closely with many revered names in the whisky world, including Dr Jim Swan, the man behind the success of Welsh whisky Penderyn. Using copper stills imported from Scotland, the whisky is based on traditional Scotch methods but it is very much a product of Taiwan. Kavalan’s distillery is situated in Yilan County, an area chosen for its cold water supply, and the whisky is named after the earliest clan which inhabited this northeastern part of the island.
Despite being a relatively young producer, Kavalan boasts an impressive portfolio of whiskies, shaped by Taiwan’s tropical climate which lends itself to rapid maturation. Fruity in style, Kavalan uses multiple cask types, including first-fill ex-bourbon, Sherry, wine and Port casks. Kavalan’s other award-winning whisky includes Kavalan Concertmaster, a rich and fresh whisky that utilises Ruby Port, Tawny Port and Vintage Port casks from Portugal.
Number of distilleries
Kavalan was the first and only whisky distillery on the island, receiving around one million visitors a year.
The distillery has the capacity to produce nine million bottles a year.
The home market
Kavalan is very popular in Taiwan’s domestic market, as well as across Asia. Taiwan also remains an important market for Scotch. In 2014, exports jumped by 36% to £197 million.
If you can get hold of it, Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique. Otherwise, try Kavalan Single Malt Whisky, which was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2011 International Wine & Spirit Competition.
UPDATE: Taiwan has added a second distillery to its roster, the Nantou Distillery produces The Omar brand whisky which currently features both a bourbon and a sherry edition.