How does “bourbon infused milk chocolate” sound to you?
If you answered pretty spectacular, you’re not alone. The good judges of the World Whiskies Awards (try saying that three times fast) declared Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique the planet’s best single malt, crediting its “sweet pruney flavours” mingling with “a thread of spice and smoke.” And just where is this mouthwatering liquid gold distilled?
Taiwan. Yep, you heard us.
Japanese whisky brands like Yamazaki and Hibiki have picked up in consumer popularity recently, and now it seems Taiwan is following suit. Kavalan Distillery stands alone as Taiwan’s first and only whisky distillery. Their first round of bottling was released in 2008, and since then they’ve picked up numerous awards–and a few controversies.
During a blind tasting in Leith thrown in celebration of Burns Night (a night dedicated to the late Scottish poet Robert Burns), one of Kavalan’s products beat out three Scotch whiskies and an English whisky, much to the dismay of the tasters. Take that, Scotch!
Still skeptical? Well, its actually no wonder Taiwan produces an excellent single malt, given the country’s love of Scotch. In terms of Scotch whisky imports by value, Taiwan ranks fourth, according to Scotch Whisky Association data. While behind the US, if we put things in perspective, we can see that American consumption of Scotch per capita is far below that of the Taiwanese.
Not only that, but a proliferation of cocktail bars, whisky joints, and so-called speakeasies (like Alchemy and R&D Cocktail Lab) have made Taiwan a hotbed for the single malt market. Why not make some of their own? After all, the tropical climate of Taiwan makes the land a literal hotbed, maturing whisky quickly.
If you’ve never tried Asian whisky, fear not. Aged in retired American oak wine barrels, this creamy single malt has a definite approachability in its rich, fruit forward flavors. In fact, if super smoky peatiness freaks you out, this might be a good place to start your single malt adventure.