KAVALAN WHISKY: WATER OF LIFE
When people taste the award-winning Kavalan Whisky, they often experience an unexpected sweetness on the palate. Here’s the story behind the reason why.
You could say it started with a giant sea turtle, which became the enduring symbol of a tribe of people. They, and the land they made rich, were called the Kavalan. The iconic sea creature was a volcano formed along the rift of the Eurasian and Philippine tectonic plates thousands of years ago. Millions of years earlier, the same rift had caused massive mountains of metamorphosed limestone that gave birth to the island of Taiwan.
Named by the Portuguese “Formosa” or “Beautiful Isle,” volcanic Taiwan has a 250km backbone of nearly 300 peaks, standing more than 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) tall: the world’s highest density of summits. Fast forward to the 21st century and Taiwan’s second tallest peak, the 3880m Snow Mountain, begins providing the pure, copious water source needed for the country’s Kavalan whisky.
“The snows fall between December and March, after which they thaw and seep down through the pores of the earth.”
Quite possibly Taiwan’s purest, sweetest water source, Snow Mountain has been called by some, the most beautiful place on the island. Its range of mountains, “Holy Ridge” is one, is the site of the country’s largest glacial traces, including a glacial cirque, and the highest black fir forest. Higher than the soaring firs, the snows fall between December and March, after which they thaw and seep down through the pores of the earth.
By the time these pure meltwaters reach the limestone bedrock below and gather as aquifers tapped in Yilan - where Kavalan is based - they have been naturally filtered and refined through the tightly packed layers of earth and rock. The water that will eventually produce some of the world’s finest whisky has also absorbed different minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc, resulting in a very slight hardness and a nearly neutral ph: the optimal conditions for fermentation.
“these pure meltwaters ... have been naturally filtered and refined through the tightly packed layers of earth and rock.”
Zinc especially nurtures and activates the yeasts, which increase the rich and complex aromas of the whisky. It is during the fermentation and the earlier mashing process, that the quality and flavour of a whisky’s new make, is determined. For Kavalan, the location of its Yilan distillery and the insistence on tapping Taiwan’s purest naturally refined water source has been key to its signature sweetness and creamy mouthfeel.
*Taking life from the pure sweet waters of Snow Mountain, Kavalan whisky has been pioneering the art of single malt whisky since 2006. A spirit of place, rooted in Yilan County, Kavalan takes both the old name for Yilan and the indigenous people who settled the land. The dream of founders Mr TT Lee and his son Mr YT Lee to pioneer whisky in Taiwan, Kavalan became a reality with the help of whisky expert, the late Dr Jim Swan, as well as Master Blender Ian Chang.
Named in 2015 and 2016 the “World’s Best Single Malt” and the “World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt” by the prestigious World Whiskies Awards, Kavalan recently won four best-in-class trophies at the International Spirits Challenge, the International Wine and Spirits Competition and the International Review of Spirits, as part of more than 250 top medals in the most competitive global contests.*