Amazing story of whisky from Taiwan
When we think of whisky, most of us think about Scotland, Ireland or the US. Some might prefer Japan while a few would prefer to try the truly international tastes of Amrut or Paul John. But no one thinks of a small country like Taiwan.
Taiwan hasn’t got a long whisky-making tradition. For Taiwan, homemade whisky is a 12-year-old child. But in a dozen years or so no other country on the planet might have shaken the whiskey world like this country.
All this began with the ambition of a Taiwanese entrepreneur named Lee Tien-Tsai who used to sell mosquito repellent decided to try the beverage industry and in 1979 made a new company named the King Car Group to sell root beer. The only thing that prevented Tien-Tsai from making his favourite product – whisky -was the very restrictive state monopoly system in Taiwan. But when in 2002 the country joined the World Trade Organisation, he understood that time had arrived to create the first Taiwanese whisky.
So in 2005, King Car Group set up a distillery in Yilan County, south of Taipei, Taiwan’s capital. Tien-Tsai decided that it should be named after the indigenous people who lived in the region – Kavalan.
Lee knew what he was up against with his new product still brewing in the backyard and one day it will have to complete with the big giants in the market – the 12-year-old, 18-year-old and 21-year-old whiskies from Scotland and other parts of the world.
King Car Group had it all worked out. Lee had already brought in food technologists and engineers to his team and their job was to see how whisky was made in other parts of the world. Soon he picked the most consumed -Single Malt as the destination where the Taiwanese whisky would head to. Dr Jim Swan, an expert of the early Scotch Whisky Research Institute, was brought in from Scotland as consultant to ensure a house style that would compete with the best in the market.
The company chose Yilan County for setting up their distillery. King Car Group also knew how to make good use of the humid climate that was thought to be not ideal for making whisky. True, a large part of whisky might evaporate into thin air, but such heat also means speedy maturation. They did the calculation and realized that it would take only 3-4 years for Kavalan to match up with a 12-year old Scotch in maturation.
Like prejudices and made and shattered, in a blind test held in 2010, the underdog, rolling on its way to become one of the best in the world, game a tough competition to the big giants. It went on to win the International Wine & Spirit Competition Worldwide Whisky Trophy 2017 and the International Spirits Challenge Trophy for two years in a row, in 2016 and 2017.
Today this drink has become an art work , which has won more than 200 awards in international competitions ever since its birth, is sold in more than 60 countries.