WhiskyFair TAKAO Debrief – Day One

Geek Choc buying whisky samples at Omar Distillery Booth

We had such a wild time in Taiwan that we were quite reluctant to come home after a week. It has been such a fruitful trip, and we are thankful to everyone who had given us their time in Taiwan. With the excitement and tiredness from travelling behind us, it is time for us to give our field report to our faithful members who are eagerly awaiting our updates on WhiskyFair TAKAO.

A little background about WhiskyFair TAKAO

WhiskyFair TAKAO is the first ever whisky event to be held in Kaohsiung. It marks the start of a beautiful annual event for Asian whisky lovers to come together for a celebration. Held on 2nd and 3rd December 2017, it was the brainchild of Mr Li Chunfeng, owner of Drunken Master Whisky Bar and Mr Michael Hsieh, owner of ARen Trading Co. Ltd, in partnership with The Whisky Agency.  Many others are involved in organising this fair, but Mr Li and Mr Hsieh are the principal collaborators.
This event is also an investment into independent bottlers across Taiwan and the world. All of the exhibitors invited are independent bottlers or whisky bars which stock independent bottles. The exhibitors come mainly from Taiwan and Japan, but there are also a few independent bottlers from the Western world such as WM Cadenhead and Whiskybase.

What we think about the Event

We were impressed with the organisation of the fair considering that it was the first ever event in Kaohsiung. Despite the inexperience of the organisers, the whisky fair was well thought-out. The venue was at 85 Sky Tower, the tallest building in Kaohsiung. The exhibition overlooked the Kaohsiung port, and while visibility was near zero due to thick fog (air pollution), it was still a charming place. The fairground was well laid out, with plenty of space for visitors to stop by the different booths to buy samples of the whiskies on offer.

Whisky Transaction at WhiskyFair TAKAO

The mode of transaction is different for WhiskyFair TAKAO as compared to Whisky Live Singapore. In this event, the entrance ticket is a low 450NTD (SGD$22.50), and you get a Glencairn glass FOC. You will have to purchase coupons to exchange them for whisky samples at the fair itself. Of course, when we pay for the whiskies, the exhibitors brought out their big guns for the visitors to try!

WhiskyFair TAKAO (Day One)

We started the fair innocently enough – we avoided the crowds and only went in at 11 am even though the event began at 10 am. As we were not buying the first-day annual bottles (Bowmore 25 years old + Caol Ila 10 years old), we had the luxury of entering later. The first scene that greeted us at the venue was this.
Neat, artistically-placed tables stood side by side with the exhibitors eagerly engaging the different visitors who came into the fairgrounds. We were overwhelmed by the friendliness of these exhibitors! When they understood that we are bloggers from Singapore, they piled us with drinks – FOC! Their generosity touched us deeply.

Asian Palate Association

We got to taste three different bottles at the first booth. Interestingly, the owner of Asian Palate Association chooses only whiskies which are sherry-based and what he termed as “clean”. He clarified that it meant that he tried to select whiskies that are not sulphuric or tannic. We heard that he is looking for a distributor in Singapore, so if you are interested, contact us, and we can link you up!

Omar Distillery – Taiwan

Next, we headed to Omar where we quickly purchased our lychee whisky bottles! If you followed our Facebook post, you would have known that we visited Omar distillery and were disappointed that the lychee whisky was sold out at the distillery. Miracles happened sometimes, and we found them at WhiskyFair TAKAO! They were the last few bottles too! Yay!
We were so excited, and the exhibitors were rather amused by us. They made us more excited when they offer us a free pour of the lychee whisky! Now, how generous can they be?! We also tried their peated whisky and were genuinely impressed by it.

Omar Peated Cask Strength

The peat is aromatic and the bourbon cask influence that it was in enhanced the floral and fruitiness of the whisky. We will be doing a post or two on Omar, so we will not dwell too much here. 🙂

Swiss Alpine Whisky

After the first two booths, we went straight to whisky heaven. There were just too many to try, and we had to keep up with all the exhibitors looking to pour their whiskies into our Glencairn glasses. Walking deep into the middle of the fair, we found something that we had not try for years – Swiss Whisky!

Santis Malt

If you have not heard about Santis Malt, it is time you try them! We first tasted Santis Malt back in 2010, when we travelled to Switzerland and found a bottle in a tiny supermarket in Interlaken. We were not impressed back then, but we ought to say that the whisky has improved a lot! Santis Malt is matured in old beer casks and usually have a unique finish. To preserve our livers, we tried their most sought-after winter edition – Snow White and another bottle from The Whisky Agency only.

Snow White No. 5 is the latest edition in their winter release. Slated for their 2017 release, the bottles are going to be available in Taiwan only sometime in late January or even February. It is matured in old beer casks and then finished in APRICOT liquor casks! Woot! It was one of the most amazing whiskies we had ever tasted. The apricot aroma engulfed the nose and followed through on the palate and the finish. Wow…it was simply amazing! It was too bad that they were not selling it at the fair.

The Santis Malt from The Whisky Agency was another exciting bottle. Matured in a sherry cask, it had a different character when compared to the standard Santis Malt. Again, the bottle was sold out so we couldn’t bring it home. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic journey with Santis Malt, and we got to admit that they have improved tremendously since the last time we had it in Switzerland.

Rare Whiskies from Japan

When we talk whisky, how can we not think about Japan and their unique offerings? Whiskyfair TAKAO had some distinctive Japanese exhibitors, such as Toru Suzuki-san from The Mash Tun Tokyo. The bar owners in Japan have many rare whiskies, including Port Ellen and Karuizawa. We even had our first Karuizawa, recommended by Suzuki-san!

Since it was our first time tasting Karuizawa, we had to document that sweet moment with a photo!

Geek Flora and Geek Choc with our Karuizawa sample

Taiwan Independent Bottlers

We did not forget the independent bottlers from Taiwan of course. They are the main reasons why WhiskyFair TAKAO could take off. We visited Spirits Salon and Aqua Vitae amongst others. By this time, we were ready to surrender to our alcohol intake, so we took out our trusty sample bottles and bought some samples to bring home instead.

Geek Flora has a special love for Blair Athol, and we had a taste of it. Allen Chen is the founder of Aqua Vitae. He is a passionate whisky lover and entrepreneur from Taiwan. His company is newly set up and currently have only four expressions. We are sure that there will be more whisky expressions from him next year!

Drunken Master Whisky Bar / Independent Bottler

Finally, we are dedicating the last portion of Day One for Drunken Master Whisky Bar – the organiser of WhiskyFair TAKAO. Drunken Master is both a whisky bar and an independent bottler. The owner, Mr Chunfeng, is also the chairman of Formosa Whisky Society. He did the labels for his bottles on his own and managed much of the operation at his bar too.
For WhiskyFair TAKAO, he brought casks for four individual bottles. There is a Bowmore 25 years old, a Caol Ila 10 years old, a Littlemill 1988 and a Springbank 1994. While we do not have the picture for the Springbank 1994, here are the other three bottles!

Besides these bottles, we also bought samples of Drunken Master’s other bottles. Some of you might have seen the first two bottles below. The other two are not yet released as they are bottles for Formosa Whisky Society. We will post our reviews of these bottles once we have tasted them.

End of Day One

It was a fruitful day at WhiskyFair TAKAO Day One! It was a roller coaster journey as we walked through the exhibition hall. We will continue with Day Two in another post for this is already getting too long. Click here for the next one and thank you for reading all the way here!

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