I visited this small island nation, 180km east of China, as part of a work trip and had the opportunity to visit some of the local sites over the weekend, including the King Car Distillery, producers of Kavalan whisky.
First stop was at Taipei 101, this skyscraper was the world’s tallest building between 2004 and 2010, until the construction of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It stands at 509.2m and as the name suggests, it has 101 floors above ground. You can view the building from far away within Taipei – as expected – unfortunately on the day of the visit, the weather was cloudy so I only had limited visibility, but still worth checking it out.
Next stop was the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. This national monument, located at the east end of Liberty Square in the Zhongzheng district of Taipei, is surrounded by a park, and the National Theater and National Concert Hall (all pictured below). If I had the time to spare, I would have spent more time here as there seemed to be some really interesting exhibitions and activities taking place all around this venue.
Next stop was for lunch and the opportunity to eat Taiwan’s national dish, Beef Noodle Soup. Basically this is beef and noodles in broth plus an optional cold side dish such as braised dried tofu (very tasty!), seaweed, or pork intestine.
Afterwards, we set out for Yilan County, to visit the King Car distillery around 1-2 hours away from Taipei (depending on traffic). A few stops were made along the way and I even had the opportunity for some Vinegar tasting at a local winery. Drinking vinegar seems to be popular in Taiwan and other countries in Asia, especially during meals as a way to balance the pH level in the stomach and act as a cleanser between dishes.
Also took the time to visit Waiao Beach in the east coast of Taiwan, a vast sandy beach made up of black sand and views of Turtle Island. Seemed like a nice place to relax if you are looking to settle for the day…
My driver then took me for a coffee break at Mr. Brown Cafe Castle and Windmill in the park, still within Yilan County. Mr. Brown coffee, as I later found out, is made by the same people behind Kavalan whisky. On the way up the winding road, we also made a brief stop at a local Temple (pictured below).
The coffee break was topped up with views of Ghishan Island (also known as Turtle Island), the only active volcano in Taiwan on the east coast (see map below).
Next stop was the much anticipated visit to King Car Kavalan Distillery (Yuan Shan Distillery), first opened in 2005 and where the Kavalan single malt whisky from Taiwan is produced under the supervision of its Master Blender, Ian Chang. Ian learnt under Dr. Jim Swan, Kavalan’s consultant who also helped to set up the distillery. Due to its early success and demand, the capacity has been increased to an impressive 9 million litres of alcohol per year, only 10 years since the first Kavalan bottling was released. I have to admit it was a much larger distillery than I had expected to find…
There were tours taking place whilst I was there and the distillery receives a staggering 1 million visitors a year! This will be mainly from within Asia and although tours in English are available, this is not in place every day so be warned if you are coming over…still there is quite a lot of information available throughout in English and the opportunity to taste some Kavalan whisky at the end also.
For more information on the distillery and Kavalan – check out this article by Whiskey Wash.
Back in Taipei, I took the opportunity to once again try the local food for dinner and drink the local Taiwanese beer and the liquor Kaoliang wine. This strong distilled liquor made from fermented sorghum is a type of unflavoured baiju and traditional amongst the older Taiwanese (it seems that the younger generation prefer Western drinks such as Scotch whisky). The local food was also a bit different from what I would usually have in the UK, such as the soya boiled pork knuckle and peanuts dish or the soya boiled pork intestines with preserved vegetables….but I guess you have to give it a go when abroad!
To finish off the night, we ended up going to Backyard bar, owned by the noted whisky consultant Steven Lin. This bar is also known as L’arriere-cour and has an extensive selection of Scotch whiskies. We were well looked after on the night by Peter Huang from the Backyard team.