Taiwan emerges as burgeoning leader in the wild world of whiskey

The Taiwanese whiskey industry is skyrocketing, and local distillers have the climate to thank.


October 3, 2019

Keep your Kentucky bourbon. Taiwan is the whiskey maker everyone’s talking about. Since its first distillery opened in 2006, Taiwan’s whiskey makers have earned dozens of prestigious awards and produced millions of bottles annually — capitalizing on a growing “cocktail culture.”

A lot of time and money go into making whiskey

It takes at least 3 years — and often much longer — for whiskey to mature, so distillers usually have tons of cash tied up in inventory. Brown-Forman, which owns Jack Daniel’s, noted in an annual report that it has $950m sitting in barrels. 

So how did Taiwan become such a breakout?

Taiwan’s first whiskey distillery, Kavalan, is part of the food and logistics giant King Car Group. With a power player funding its operations, Kavalan was able to build high levels of capacity and sales in a short time.  

Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation, or TTL, is a state-owned entity that previously held a monopoly on Taiwanese tobacco and liquor… so it already had some distilleries as well as an established distribution and marketing network.

Existing infrastructure was important, but geography also played a role in Taiwan’s emergence as a whiskey power. The island’s subtropical climate helps whiskey mature 2-3x faster than it would in more established whiskey regions. And given Taiwan’s proximity to the large Asian markets — which have an increasing appreciation for whiskey — there are plenty of people to buy it. 

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