DISTILLERY: Nantou Distillery, Nantou City, Nantou County, Taiwan, R.O.C.
Year of Establishment: 1978 (Whisky production since 2008)
Ownership/Management: Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corporation (TTL)
Taiwan, an island on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean, lies off the southeastern coast of mainland China. Continuous tectonic movements have created majestic peaks, rolling hills, plains, basins, coastlines, and other natural landscapes here. Taiwan is shaped like a leaf that is narrow at both ends and both its tropical and subtropical climates provide some marked seasonal differences. Nantou, the only landlocked county in central Taiwan, is a homeland of mountains and rivers. There are 41 mountains with peaks over 3000 meters high. Approximately 83% of the total area is covered by hills and mountains. Rains that fall on the mountains converge into rivers, ponds and lakes, among which the famous Sun Moon Lake lies. And in this landscape of crystal clear lakes and green mountains, Nantou Distillery operates.
Nantou Whisky Distillery was established in 2008. It is equipped with three malt storage tanks, one grain miller, one lauter mush tun, eight stainless steel washbacks, and two pairs of copper pot-stills. Since it is too hot to grow barely in Taiwan, we have to purchase two rows of malted barley germinated and kilned from Scotland every year. We can only make whisky from October to the following April due to the high temperature in the summer. We have been using un-peated malts as raw material for the production of whiskey, in 2014 also purchase a small amount of peated malts to vary the flavors of our single malt whisky in the future.
Malts are transported to the buffer tanks through pneumatic conveying system for milling. We use the four-roll Bühler miller to grind malt. After being milled into grist, the malt is fed into Huppmann lauter mash tun and mixed with hot water. The production water, for mashing, is groundwater extracted from the Central Mountain Range near Nantou County.The wort is collected three times. The first and second collections are mixed and pumped through a heat exchanger, where the mixed wort is cooled to around 19oC, and then transported to the washbacks. The third running provides for a portion of the mashing liquor for the subsequent mash.
Our washbacks are made of stainless steel, considering that wooden ones tend to mold easily and are difficult to maintain because of the humid subtropical climate in Taiwan. In addition, the washbacks are designed and equipped with water-cooling jackets to control the fermentation temperatures in between 20 to 32oC. Commercial whisky yeast and a small amount of wet yeast are added and fermented separately in order to produce different flavors. After fermenting 60 to 72 hours, the wash is then conveyed to distillation.
Nantou Distillery has four copper pot stills. Two of them, having the capacity of 9,000 and 5,000 liters respectively, are used for the wash distillation, while the other two, having the capacity of 5,000 and 2,000 liters respectively, are used for the spirit distillation. By using different sizes, heights and even variant inclination angles of the lyne arms, the Forsyths distillers are operated to obtain different characters of distillate. Due to the hot and humid climate here, we adopt a two-stage cooling system, a shell and tube condenser and a post-cooling system. Low wine obtained from the two wash stills are mixed before re-distilling. Spirit is collected after removing head and tail. Two distillations of spirit are mixed to obtain an average of 70% alcohol content.
After reduction, the new spirit is then transferred into oak casks and stored on racks in brick warehouses to mature. We use mainly Spanish Sherry casks (hogshead and butt) and American bourbon barrels. The hot and humid climate causes about 6-7% of Angel’s share every year. Nevertheless, after maturation, our malt whisky has special characters in darker colors (matured gold to amber) and in richer aromas of tropical fruits, such as mango, lychee, green banana, canned pineapple and so on. Our medium-bodied malt whisky tastes slightly sweet, combined with floral and dried fruity flavors, as well as creamy, chocolaty, caramel, nutty, spicy and woody notes of oak.
Blended whiskeys currently serve as the core expression of Nantou Distillery’s products sold in the market. A limited edition of single malt whisky bottled at cask strength versions, exclusively matured in ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks, was first released in October 2013 and has gained a high reputation. Moreover, at the end of 2014 a “non-chill filtered” single malt whiskey is being expected to make its debut. In addition, Nantou Distillery also produces a variety of fruit wines marketing to the world and the casks that have stored lychee wine and plum wine are then used for maturating wood-finished whiskeys. These particular whiskies thoroughly display Taiwanese terroir and to help create our own styles.