A brief 60-minute drive out of Taipei, Taiwan down into Yilan County will soon see you arriving to Kavalan’s distillery head quarters, or as the locals pronounce it ‘Gamalan’.
Up until this visit, my only experience to date with Kavalan, had been drinking the highly decorated and much sought after Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique. (World’s best Single malt whisky – 2015 world whiskies awards). And so, whilst in town, the opportunity to visit such an acclaimed, Taiwanese distillery seemed too good not to pass up.
Kavalan is an extremely young distillery compared to other historical whisky brands around the world, with development and launch having only been completed in December 2005. This, however, has not stopped Kavalan quickly growing to become the most visited distillery in the world, with almost 1,000,000+ visitors per year, not to mention multiple 'whisky of the year' awards & Jim Murray bible wins amassed along the way. A truly remarkable feat!
The distillery verdict… wow!
There’s one thing that Kavalan do undeniably well, that’s efficiency! The facility was in full swing during my visit and tour. From the charring of casks to the ~20 stills that were in operation through to the labelling and packaging factory, not one part of the process appeared disorganized. To my surprise, the grounds were much larger than I had anticipated, and the production output far higher that I had ever imagined.. at a staggering 9 million litres per year! (For reference, this is almost on par with world-renowned Glenfiddich's annual yield at 10 million).
The distillery boasts interesting self paced walk through sections, viewing glass areas and mezzanine level look outs, all adding to the journey as you discover Kavalan’s unique and interesting distilling and operation methods. The best part? The tasting of course! With a multiple bars dotted around the cellar door building, there’s no shortage of dram drinking opportunities, be it self-paced or with scheduled group tastings.
Last but not least, on the way out, it’s hard not to detour through the noticeably affordable whisky shop. Stocked high with tasty bottles, gift packs and trinkets, there is nothing ‘Kavalan’ branded that you can’t purchase. If you’re an Australian like myself, you won’t help but notice the price difference of Kavalan before export/import… so if you’re in the market to take home a bottle of Kavalan or two, be sure to stock up on-site. You’ll be paying half the price you would back home after tax.
Kavalan distillery delivered a truly remarkable experience, one which I highly recommend should you ever find yourself in and around Taiwan seeking a wee dram!