Vignettes in Whisky Trip to Taiwan – part 1/3 By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Vignettes in Whisky

Trip to Taiwan – part 1/3

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 1 of 3.

It goes without saying that one does not visit Taiwan without visiting the Kavalan Distillery in Yilan. It was, in fact, our first order of business.

Kavalan Distillery

Our tour was rather early, so our group was relatively small. The typical load of tourists had yet to arrive. It’s important to realize that Kavalan is visited by some 1 million (!) visitors per year. That’s a tenfold what Glendiffich – Scotland’s most popular destination in terms of whisky tourism – get per year. Hence their visitor center, shop and tasting room – or Spirits Castle as it is aptly named – is the size of a sports arena.

We were first presented with a 15 minute corporate video in the convention center, allowing us to discover that the King Car Group does so much more than just whisky. Milk products, Mr Brown Coffee, shrips, orchids, bio products, bug sprays, Buckskin beer… The list goes on. Factories can be found in Taiwan, but also in China and Vietnam.

It took about 3 full minutes to drive from the convention center to the distillery grounds – it is a vast project to say the least – where our guide was already waiting for us. All the steps of the whisky production were explained in detail. The guide’s English was very good, which was a good thing as my Chinese is limited to hello and thank you. She very patiently took us through the distillery, stopping in the mash room, distillery rooms (plural, there are three of them!) and warehouse.


After the expansion of 2018, Kavalan now has 2 distilleries in fact, plant A and plant B. It is one of the big players in the world. The still houses contain both classic pot stills by Forsyths of Scotland and German Holzstein column stills used for both grain whisky and the new Kavalan gin (coming to Europe in 2019). The production capacity is now a whopping 9 million liters per annum.


Funny detail: the distillery is adorned with information boards with the production explained in both Chinese and English (you can do a tour by yourself as well, even with audio guide), but not all the photos were from the Kavalan distillery. I discovered quite a few photos that were taken at my favorite Lowlander Auchentoshan. Serendipity!


Once past the mash tuns, washbacks and still, we were able to take a look in the warehouse where the casks are actually maturing upright! Maturation is done on a mix of bourbon, sherry, port, rum, wine and brandy casks. As far as sherry goes, the casks previously contained PX, Oloroso, Manzanilla, Amontillado and Fino. Surely you have seen them, for they are released in the popular and award-winning Solist range.


Our guide goes on to proudly explain that Kavalan whisky is now available in over 200 countries and their malts have amassed over 200 rewards. That is quite a feat for a distillery that has only been around since 2005.

But when all is said and done, I found the tour to be rather short. It took less than 45 minutes before we were invited to the obligatory stop in the shop. I took the opportunity to purchase the Distillery Reserve – limited releases of about 300 bottles of 30cl only available at the distillery. This time around, it was a Kavalan Peaty Cask and a Kavalan Rum Cask.

While the rest of the group seemed ready to get back into their cars, I certainly was not. I still wanted to do something extra…. You’ve guessed it: shooting one of my whisky ramblings for Youtube.

After this whisky adventure, it was high time for a hearty lunch in the heart of the city.

Part 2 will be published on February 24th and the final part 3 will be published on March 3rd.


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