The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2018

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Page 79 of 100

june 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  79 P roduced by Taiwan's Nantou Distillery, OMAR whisky is stepping into the international spotlight as it prepares for its release in the American market. Joining Kavalan in bolstering Taiwan's newly recognized status as an epicenter of high-end whisky, OMAR has a unique and intriguing taste that's inexorably rooted in the island's history, culture, and terroir. OMAR gets its name from the Gaelic word for amber—the color that characterizes its appearance. In Taiwan, however, the name sounds like "black horse," a symbol of "potential, power, and the unexpected," according to Chung Pei Yuan, a Senior Technician at OMAR's Nantou Distillery. The rise of whisky in Taiwan may also seem unexpected to outsiders, but the phenomenon is far from a recent development. Over the past two decades, the Taiwanese have become whisky connoisseurs and rare whisky hunters, and in urban bars and restaurants, menus boast varieties representing a wide range of regions, styles, and distilleries. "Whisky is competitive and diverse," says Chung. "The Taiwanese are very selective in their whiskies because they look for such variation and are constantly gaining more experience with the spirit." In fact, while Taiwan has a population of 23 million people (compared to the United States' 323 million), the small island is one of the world's leading consum- ers of whisky. Because Taiwan tends to import mainly high-end whiskies, a perfect opening has been created for Taiwanese distillers to introduce their own premium spirits to the market. NANTOU EMBRACES WHISKY The government-owned Nantou Distillery has operated as a winery producing fruit wines and brandies since 1978. In the 1980s, the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation, the state agency that oversees the distillery, voiced its interest in seeing Taiwan join the whisky market and sent Lin Jin-Dan, who later became PHOTOS COURTESY OF NANTOU DISTILLERY Produced in Taiwan, OMAR is made from malted barley imported from Scotland that's approved by the distillery's malting barley committee. Hung Shao-wei, the former team leader in charge of the production line, checks the status of the wort in one of the distillery's washbacks. Taiwan's tropical heat demands the Nantou team follow rigorous management processes to avoid contamination.

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