Like most whisky-loving individuals, I had to visit the Kavalan distillery while holidaying in Taiwan. Some of you may agree with me that their whiskies are somewhat inconsistent from batch to batch, but the quality of the spirit is generally good. Kudos to master distiller Ian Chang and his team for creating a world-renowned, award-winning product.
Due to the distillery’s popularity among tourists, most, if not all drivers would know where it is. You can get to Yilan County, where the distillery is, via a train ride. But getting a private-hire vehicle is most ideal as it provides door-to-door service and gives you a bit of flexibility that ultimately, saves you plenty of time. I say, don’t be penny-wise, pound foolish.
The journey takes about 1.5-2 hours from Taipei via Highway 5. Although, we were caught in a jam and the journey took us about three hours. The driver said that many Taipei residents take the chance to head out of the city to experience the countryside whenever they can. We were there during the long Labour Day weekend. Hence, the traffic build-up.
Speaking of which, the rather long journey built up our expectations. But, the experience at the distillery turned out to be a tad underwhelming.
For one, the tour is self-guided (which is why there’s no need for bookings) and there won’t be anybody to take you through the production process. Instead, you walk along a corridor within the distillery, where there are glass windows for you to peer into the mash tuns, washbacks, stills and the warehouse. The signs (in English and Chinese) did a great job explaining the various stages of the production process. While informative, the lack of a personal touch made the visit a little unmemorable.
There was a mass-tasting session at the main hall (informative, but it was hard to pay attention), before we proceeded to the gift shop.
The gift shop sells samples and memorabilia sold, along with Kavalan’s core range. Award winning expressions such as the Kavalan Solist Amontillado Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (winner of World Whiskies Awards’ World’s Best Single Cask Whisky in 2016) and the rather coveted Kavalan Solist PX Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky were in stock when we were there.
Here’s a tip: You can purchase four samples of any expression available for 400 TWD. A very good deal if you ask me. BUT, avoid the lunch hour (12pm to 1pm), as the people serving the samples are unavailable.
Is the distillery worth a visit? Definitely. Besides, Yilan County has lot to offer as well other than Kavalan whisky.
The green scallion pancake from this particular stall is the bomb. You won’t miss this stall, as it always has a long queue. They use 三星葱 (anglicized as ‘Sanxing chong’), grown at its nearby namesake town, is more flavourful and less pungent compared to the ones we are used to here in Singapore. This is really good street food.
Address: 262, Taiwan, Yilan County, Jiaoxi Township, 礁溪路四段128號
For lunch or dinner, I’d recommend the Red Lantern Restaurant, located within Silks Place Yilan hotel. This place is famous for its Cherry Valley roasted duck. The ducks are raised locally to ensure quality and consistency, and they are slow roasted to perfection for our eating pleasure. Just google this restaurant and you’ll read rave reviews, so I won’t need to say more. The restaurant is really popular; be sure to reserve a table before your visit.
Red Lantern Restaurant (within Silks Place Yilan hotel)
260, Taiwan, Yilan County, Yilan City, 民權路二段36號