Taiwan may only have one whiskey maker, but the island nation punches above its weight. Ian Centrone of Tasting Table checks in with single malt producer Kavalan, which has quickly built an international name for itself since launching in 2005.
As it turns out, Kavalan is owned by Taiwanese conglomerate King Car Group, whose other products range from bug dope to frozen noodles. With help from those deep pockets, the distillery keeps racking up prizes. Among them: Best Single Malt at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards for its Solist Vinho Barrique Single Cask Strength, compared to “bourbon-infused milk chocolate.”
Like Speyside, but with better weather
Master distiller Ian Chang explains that Kavalan located its distillery an hour outside Taipei, in lush, humid Yilan County, which he calls the Speyside of Taiwan. Because the subtropical heat aids color formation, Kavalan doesn’t use caramel. And that climate boosts the interplay of spirit and cask, so the whiskey grows up fast.
OK, but how does it taste? “Kavalan offers a nice, creamy, oily character that’s very different when you compare our whisky to that of Scotland or Japan,” says Chang, who also points out that its flavor profiles echo those of local produce. “We are more about subtropical fruits like mango and indigenous apples and pineapples.” Sweet.🥃