With presence in over 60 countries from Asia to Europe and 30 different single malt whiskey expressions under its belt, the distillery recently won the much-coveted International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) Worldwide Whiskey Producer of the Year trophy, which is awarded to the highest-scoring whiskey maker across Asia, Australasia, Europe and the Americas.
This was in addition to taking home Producer or Distillery of the Year awards from just about all the top competitions such as IWSC, the International Spirits Challenge (ISC) and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC).
“Many of our award-winning expressions are mainly single cask whiskies (unblended products where no two casks are alike; vs single malt whiskies which are made from blending different malt whiskies at the same distillery) – usually only ten out of 100 barrels in the maturation warehouse, or just one-tenth of barrels, are selected to be bottled as single cask whiskies,” Kavalan Brand Ambassador & Global PR Officer Kaitlyn Tsai told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Kavalan Distillery is located in Yilan County, which has a unique climate of hot summers and cool winters that enables us to develop rich, complex-flavoured whiskey within just a few years – a process our late technical consultant Dr Jim Swan and I called ‘maturation redefined’.
“The intense heat of Yilan’s summer helps the whiskey to extract the flavour compounds from the oak barrels much more quickly, and the cool winds and below-10°C winters help maximise the oxidation process. Yilan is also the first place in Taiwan where Siberian winds hit so the ‘breathing in’ process of our maturation is extended, making it the best place on the island to make whiskey.
“In terms of flavour, Kavalan whiskey boasts an incredibly smooth, mellow and creamy taste with a rich fragrance of tropical fruity and sweet characters, particularly apple, mango and orchids which are native to Yilan County.”
Dr Jim Swan was an English scientist and single malt whiskey expert considered by most to be a whiskey pioneer and dubbed the ‘Einstein of Whiskey’ based on his research. He passed away om February 2017 at age 75.
“Moving on into 2022 and beyond, we believe consumers in Taiwan and also the Asia Pacific will continue to trade up for more valuable and rarer alcohol products such as limited, experimental and special edition whiskies,” Tsai added.
“The RTD category will also grow strongly since they recruit a broader consumer base, who are looking for wellness, convenience, and an intriguing variety of flavours. This creates a huge opportunity for the spirits producers across the world.”
In response to these trends, Kavalan’s single cask whiskies are already considered premium due to the uniqueness of each cask, but the distillery has also taken this a step further by focusing on marketing and presentation via an art-themed whiskey series, where it sold out some 198 limited-edition collector sets with four 700ml bottles each on the day of launching.
It also launched RTD cocktails using its whiskey and gin such as a Highball Whiskey Soda and a Gin & Tonic using its Kavalan Classic Single Malt Whiskey and its inaugural Kavalan Gin as the respective base spirits. This was recently joined by a unique ‘Kavalan Gin Soda Oolong Tea’ which incorporated the gin with charcoal-roasted oolong tea from rural Mingjian.
“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a change in consumer behaviour, with increasing numbers of people drinking at home - [this shift] has benefited categories such as spirits and RTDs that are more suited to at home drinking during lockdown,” she said.
“In the meantime, a growing number of people are also more focused on health and well-being, [embracing] mindful drinking and choosing light and refreshing drinks – our RTD highball whiskey soda and gin & tonic are both low-alcohol cocktail beverages with 4% and 5% alcohol content respectively in response to this.”
Tsai also told us that Asian and European whiskey drinkers appear to have slightly different preferences when it comes to whiskey-drinking occasions, with Asian drinkers looking for options to pair with main courses and European drinkers for options to drink after meals or with desserts - although classic whiskey does well across the board.
“Our classic Kavalan Distillery Select No.1 is the bestseller across the world [featuring] subtropical fruits like mango, pineapple and green apple and offering both friendly pricing and good quality,” she said.
“In Europe, we also noticed that Kavalan Concertmaster Port Finish which has different berries and a marshmallow sweetness is quite popular - European consumers prefer this expression because it is best paired with desserts and perfect to enjoy after a meal.
“In Asian markets, the Kavalan Oloroso Sherry Oak - known as the ‘sherry bomb’ – is an expression that sells especially well. It is very rich, oily and round-bodied, pairing very well with roasted food like steak and barbecue with smokey flavours to give it a good savoury pairing.
“In all, in 2022 Kavalan will continue to expand our global presence and bring more surprises to whiskey drinkers – more additions to our portfolio are also coming in the coming years [based on] the different casks used as well as in our gin range. In particular, we have new peated malt whiskies currently undergoing maturation which should satisfy fans soon.”