KAVALAN WHISKY: WA­TER OF LIFE

Newsweek - - HORIZONS -

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.*

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