Located in the northeastern part of Taiwan right by the Pacific Ocean, you can find fresh air and clean water in Yilan county. Many locals and overseas visitors come to Yilan for a weekend or a few days to get away from Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. Here in Yilan, there are beautiful beaches, hot springs, and farms to explore.
Kavalan Whisky, Taiwan
For whisky lovers, a mere 20 minutes drive from Yilan city will bring you to Taiwan’s first award-winning whisky distillery. Kavalan whisky got its name from the indigenous group of people who resided in Yilan county. First record of the Kavalan group dated as early as the 1600s. As the Han Chinese settlers moved to Yilan during the 19th century, most Kavalan people relocated down south to Hualien and Taitung city.
The owner of Kavalan distillery, Mr. Tien-Tsai Lee, was the founder of King Car Group, a conglomerate that sells everything from coffee, bottled water, health foods to cleaning products. Mr. Lee opened the whisky distillery in 2005. At that time, Kavalan was the only whisky distillery in Taiwan. Because of the ideal environment in Yilan, with fresh air, clean water, Mr. Lee was able to produce his first batch of Kavalan classic single malt whisky in 2006.
Because of the hot and humid weather in Yilan (it can typically go up to 33 degrees or more in the summer), the whisky ages in their wooden barrels a lot faster than the typical whisky in other parts of the world. An average Kavalan whisky ages for around four years in the barrels. The maturation process is one third less than the Scottish distillery’s. As a result, the Kavalan classic single malt whisky has a distinctive and rich flavor with a wide range of aromas, including the scent of mango, which is unique in Taiwanese whiskeys. In 2010, this Kavalan classic single malt whisky beat three Scotch whiskeys and one English whisky in a blind tasting contest for Burns Night organized in Scotland.
At the World Whisky Awards in 2015, the Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Single Cask Strength won the World’s Best Single Malt and the Best Asian Single Malt awards, beating off its competitors from around the world. Besides winning international competitions, Kavalan also received rave reviews from Whisky connoisseurs worldwide. Jim Murray’s 2017 Whisky Bible gave Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Cask 97 points (superstar whisky), with 100 points being the highest in ranking.
If you happen to be in Yilan and would like to pay a visit to Taiwan’s first whisky distillery, definitely go for a free self-guided tour at Kavalan distillery. Kavalan is open daily from Monday to Friday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm, Saturday to Sunday 9:00 am – 7:00 pm. Only groups of more than 20 people will need to make a reservation on the Kavalan website in advance.
Which type of Kavalan Whisky should you buy?
According to the staff at one of the Kavalan whisky outlet, below are two best-selling Kavalan whiskeys so far in Taiwan:
- Kavalan Classic Single Malt Whisky 700ml (list price NTD2100 ~ USD70) – The first batch of whisky that Kavalan produced. It is smooth and has a taste of tropical fruit, mango especially.
- Kavalan Podium Single Malt Whisky 700ml (list price NTD2500 ~ USD85) – This single malt whisky made from brand new American casks is fruity with a complex finish. There are hints of honey, cherry, white pepper, and grape with a sustainable aftertaste.
Where to buy Kavalan Whisky in Taiwan and globally?
There are many outlets in Taiwan where you can buy Kavalan Whisky. Below is a link to all the retail outlets in Taiwan, where you can get a bottle of Kavalan.
You can also buy Kavalan globally. Click on the link below to see if they sell Kavalan Whisky at where you are!
Omar Whisky, Taiwan
Not far from Taichung City, central Taiwan, is Nantou county. Surrounded by beautiful mountains and clean, pure water, this place is perfect for the government-owned Nantou Distillery to set up Taiwan’s second whisky distillery, Omar Whisky.
The Taiwanese government set up the Nantou Distillery in 1978 and sells mostly wine, fruit wines, beer, and other liquors. To make quality whiskies, Nantou Distillery sent a distiller to Scotland to learn the art and technique of whisky-making. In 2013, Nantou Distillery launched its first batch of cask strength single malt whiskies, both in bourbon and sherry casks. These single malt whiskies from Omar Taiwan received international recognition and won gold and silver awards at the International Spirits Challenge in 2014. The same year, they also won silver awards at the International Wine and Spirit Competition.
To further distinct its whiskies from other competitors, Omar tried new methods of aging whiskies. One of the signature whisky that Omar produces is the Omar Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky Lychee Liqueur Barrel Finished. The whisky matures in ex-bourbon casks for 3-4 years and finishes in a lychee liqueur barrel to create this flavourful fruity whisky. The finish is smooth, fruity, and oaky. By using fresh lychees from nearby Nantou mountains to make the lychee liqueur, this one of a kind whisky can only be found in Taiwan!
Where can you buy Omar whisky in Taiwan?
Many Taiwan local supermarkets such as Carrefour and PX Mart will sell Omar whiskies. Click on the links below to find out where you can buy Omar in Taipei and Taiwan:
You can also get Omar Whisky in Singapore, Malaysia, and China. Below is a list of outlets where you can get your hands on a bottle of Omar worldwide:
The geographic location of Taiwan, a small subtropical island, contributes to the success of producing quality whiskies. Due to the warm and humid climate, whiskies in Taiwan mature two to three times faster than those in Scotland or Ireland and so provides a great advantage to whisky producers in Taiwan as they can reap profits faster. This subtropical climate also contributes to the distinctive tropical flavors that only Taiwanese whiskies possess. Whether you are a spirit, wine or beer lover, coming to Taiwan will give you a pleasant surprise and satisfies your thirst for a quality alcoholic drink.
Originally published on Loci Amica