Taiwan’s Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique, produced by the King Car distillery, has been named the Best Single Malt Whiskey in the world by the 2015 World Whiskies Awards. Judges described it as a “tiny bit of incense, a thread of spice and smoke,” saying it “starts creamy, waters out, almost disappears before rubbing hot brown sugar into the esophagus.”
Japan has been winning whiskey awards for years. Yamasaki won World Whiskies Awards Best Single Malt in 2011 and 2012, and Whiskey Bible’s 2015 World Whiskey of the Year, and Hibiki and Takesturu have been consistent blended whiskey award winners. But the real surprise to many was that such a young whiskey could beat 20 to 25-year-old whiskies. King Car distillery is the first and only distillery in Taiwan, and it only started producing whiskey in 2008.
“Because Yi-Lan has really clean water and the hot/humid weather is extremely helpful to maturing the whiskey, Kavalan has been able to produce some great whiskey even though it has been aged for a shorter period of time,” Samuel Wang, founder of Akufuncture and producer of a film about Taiwan, “Picture Taipei,” told NBC News, “This has been making waves because a lot of people have realized that some of Taiwan's products can be at the top of the world.”
King Car distillery makes 9 million bottles a year in American oak casks that used to hold red and white wines, and credits its success to its clear mountain water, its location in the cross winds of the Yi-Lan Mountains and the Pacific Ocean mist, and its ability to adapt traditional distilling methods to local needs.
Sponsored by Whiskey Magazine, the competition featured three rounds of blind judging on criteria such as nose, palate, finish, balance, character, complexity, quality, and functionality.
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