It may be time for the Scots to start hiding their face in the cask. First, Japan’s Nikka Taketsuru blended 17-year-old malt whisky took the top prize in its class at the World Whiskies Awards 2015 in London. Now, a whiskey from Taiwan (yes, you read that right) has won the title of best single malt at the same awards. Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique, which is produced by the King Car distillery in the Yilan County area of Taiwan, was praised by the judges for being “surprisingly smooth” and flavoured like “bourbon-infused milk chocolate.” The drink is matured in American oak barrels that held wines. The distillery says the barrels are “toasted and recharred” to bring out fruity vanilla notes from the whiskey and wood in a way that plain whisky casks can’t.
No one should have been surprised. In August 2013, the Taiwanese whiskey—with a 58.6 per cent ABV—came out tops in a blind taste test that included historic Scottish single malts and was named New World Whisky Of The Year in The Whisky Bible, written by drinks expert Jim Murray. It also found mention in Ian Buxton’s 2010 book 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die.
Happily, the 2015 awards weren’t a total write off for Scottish whiskey. Darkness, the 18-year-old Oloroso cask finish whisky by producer North British, won the award for best grain whiskey.