Hidden in the highlands of Nantou in Taiwan, a distillery is introducing a new flavour to single malt whiskies
Blessed with mountains and lakes in central Taiwan, Nantou is the country’s only landlocked region. It’s also home to the picturesque Sun Moon Lake that receives up to a few million tourists every year. The accessibility of clean natural water and its subtropical climate make it the perfect location for a whisky distillery.
A major fruit winery and brandy distillery since 2008, Nantou Distillery officially released its single malt whisky in October 2013 named Omar (meaning ‘amber’ in Gaelic). The barley, shipped from Scotland, is milled into grist then mixed with groundwater from the Central Mountain Range heated to 65°C in a Huppmann lauter mash tun.
Nantou’s unique climate means that temperatures don’t get too hot or cold, ranging from 30°C in summer to 20°C in winter. It’s also a relatively humid location, which explains why the distillery’s washbacks are made of stainless steel instead of wood and a two-stage cooling system is in place.
As the spirits are aged, quicker than usual, in Spanish sherry casks and American bourbon barrels, the climate causes an estimated six to seven per cent of Angel’s share every year. As the whisky is non-chill filtered, what you see is what you get: the darker colour and notes of tropical fruits and nuts.
Since then, Omar single malt whisky has gone on to win medals at competitions around the world including Daily Dram Supreme Winner from Malt Maniacs Award (MMA) and Grand Gold Media of Spirits Selection by Concours Mondial de Bruxelles (CMB). Moreover, it was selected as the Asian Whisky of the Year in Whisky Bible 2020.
Omar’s secret weapon—whisky finished in fruit liqueur barrels such as lychee and plum. This year, they released a single malt whisky made with Scottish peated malt aged in virgin oak barrels with notes of baked sweet potato. The starchy root is, of course, a staple in Taiwanese night markets.