Vignettes in Whisky Trip to Taiwan – part 2/3 By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Trip to Taiwan – part 2/3

By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Apart from being a whisky blogger and vlogger, Mark Dermul from Belgium also works part time as whisky expert for the auction platform Catawiki. In that capacity he was recently sent – together with two colleagues – to Taiwan on a whisky business trip.

This is his report.

Part 2 of 3.

The Kuva Spirits Collection

Taoyuan, a city south of Taipei, is the home of the five star Hotel Kuva Chateau. It’s claim to fame among whisky aficionados is their spirits collection (which as it happens consists about 95% of whisky bottles). If you’ve ever been to the Whisky Experience in Scotland and witnessed that fine collection of bottles, wait until you see this!

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I’m not sure words can do this collection justice, but neither can photos. You have to be there and see it for yourself. I perused this collection for about an hour, taking hundreds of photos, while being discreetly shadowed by a security guard who kept smiling benignly and was very politely making sure I did not try to pry open any of the highly secured glass cabinets.

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Every Scottish distillery is represented and every high end bottle showcased. Macallan 40, Talisker 40, Black, White & Gold Bowmore, Auchentoshan 1965, Springbank 50, the list goes on… There were also hundreds of independent releases – even a few released by people I know personally. Funny.

And if you are wondering where all that Japanese whisky with age statement went, look no further. I kid you not, there were no less than 6 shelves filled with Yamazaki 12 and Hakushu 12 and the likes. Amazing display around the faux still in the center of the… shop? Museum?

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Our host had announced our arrival and none other than the assistant to the president of the hotel, took it upon himself to invite us to the whisky bar of the hotel. Well, with a whisky menu the size of a telephone book, it was hard to make a selection. Over 2.000 open bottles! After a couple of local Omar Single Casks, he opened up his very last bottle of Yamazaki 12 Year Old Pure Malt (as it was called when bottled in the late 1980s). Liquid history.

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For those interested: the Kuva Hotel hosts Taiwan’s largest whisky festival in August.

For a whisky lover, a visit to the Kuva hotel is truly unforgettable.

High End Whisky Shops

It’s no secret that Taiwan has a whisky community that is hardly rivaled anywhere in the world. Taipei, the capital in the north of this beautiful country – has quite a few whisky shops. I could not resist visiting them and what I saw there was often pretty impressive.

In the heart of the city, we visited Whisky112. The shelves were stacked with very high-end limited bottlings. The whole range of Port Ellen, Chichibu, Black Bowmore, … you name it, they most likely have it. And while I was salivating over some bottles, trying to decide whether I should take one of them home, the credit card said no…

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On the other side of town, in the suburbs of Taipei, we visited the shop One Whisky World. Again we were dumbfounded with what was on offer. While this shop had many more standard releases, they also had many Taiwan exclusives and special releases. The owner, Mrs Lin, was about to select a cask of GlenDronach and invited us to try the three cask samples she had received. One was a GlenDronach oloroso cask, the other two were Pedro Ximenez. The oloroso was clearly the more complex, the two PX were much more accessible.

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I explained to Mrs Lin as follows: ‘The PX I would share with friends, the oloroso I would keep for myself.’ She nodded her understanding, but I secretly hope – and think – that she will bottle all three.

While it was running close to midnight, our host suddenly got a call. A befriended couple was about to open a new whisky shop the very next day and wondered if we might be interested in a sneak peek. Do bears shit in the woods (excuse my French)? Off we went.

Upon arrival, we noticed that the shop did not yet have a billboard with the shop’s name on the store front. And the people inside were still very busy with filling up the shelves. Wait? What?! The bottles there were putting on the shelves were flabbergasting. The shop will specialize (or by the time you read this: specializes) in Macallan, Karuizawa, Yamazki and Chichibu. I tried (and failed miserably) not to drool.

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The next whisky shop we visited was in Taichung, a 45-minute ride on the high speed rail train. It was right next to a lobster restaurant where we were treated to a meal that was beyond delicious. Truth be told, every meal that I had in Taiwan was outstanding. Take out Chinese in my neck of the woods will never taste good again, I fear.

This whisky shop was rather ‘normal’ if you know what I mean. Mostly the standard releases that you find in Europe as well, but upholstered with many Taiwan exclusives, especially from Johnnie Walker and Glenlivet.

The whisky shop we visited after lunch – which was also the last whisky shop we visited – however, was again one that offered bottlings that would make your eyes pop out. The funny thing is, that the Spirits Salon’s storefront was so non-descript that you’d be forgiven for driving by without a second glance. How weird, considering what is on their shelves.

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Recent bottlings? Hardly any. Old and rare bottlings galore! Almost all Rare Malts, lots of black labeled dumpy bottlings from Cadenhead, a whole range of old Connoisseurs Choice releases by Gordon & Macphail with those old and ugly brown labels. And what about that Karuizawa 28 Year Old 1984 for ANA Intercontinental? I doubled checked my insurance before handling the bottle, for the price tag was 6.000 euros. Boy, oh, boy… if it were not for another appointment with a Catawiki seller, we’d probably still be there.

The 1st part was published on February 17th and the final part 3 will be published on March 3rd.

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