Taiwan's state owned Nantou Distillery is working to take its Omar line whiskies global. The distillery recently debuted two styles of its Single Malt Whisky in the U.S. market after launching them in Europe two years ago.
Nantou Distillery was established by the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation in 2008 in Nantou county to compete with the family-owned Kavalan Distillery in Yilan county.
Established three years before its state owned competitor, Kavalan has been a great success having won international recognition in a matter of 13 years. Its products are now available in 60 countries and have won more than 220 awards.
Nantou Distillery is located in Taiwan’s inland mountainous region, in an area with abundant fresh spring water. The two styles of Omar Single Malt Whisky it launced recently in the U.S. market had been aged in bourbon casks and sherry casks, both for four years with an alcohol strength of 43% abv.
Its sub-tropical climate results in fast-maturing whiskies. It is believed that the 4-year maturation received by the Omar Single Malts is equivalent to 12 years of maturation in Scotland.
The whiskies are described to have a nose with rich aromas of tropical fruit on top of walnut, caramel and chocolate .
The Omar line – which means amber in Gaelic – provides an alternative to whiskies produced by Kavalan which has dominated the Taiwan market.
Kavalan was a dark horse when it first came on the global scene. It became a force to be reckoned with in 2010 when their whiskies beat three Scotches and one English brand at a blind tasting held on Scotland's famed Burns Night.
More recently, it won the International Wine & Spirit Competition Worldwide Whisky Trophy 2017 and the International Spirits Challenge Trophy for two years in a row, in 2016 and 2017.
Kavalan produces about 9 million litres a year, making it one of the largest single malt whisky distilleries in the world, comparable in size to the oldest official Scottish distillery Glenlivet.
Taiwan is a major consumer market for whisky. In 2015 it ranked as the fourth largest market by value for Scotch, behind the US, France, and Singapore, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.
Benefiting from a matured domestic market, the two Taiwan distilleries managed to up the quality and quantity of their products in relatively short time allowing them to export to global market.
(the writer can be contacted at: SLawMathews@thewinechronicle.com)