鋐釀酒坊, or what is better known as HNWS in this part of the world, is a popular whisky shop in Taoyuan, Taiwan. In a small, unnoticeable shop along the street, a wealth of whisky treasures sits. Ranging from official bottling from countless Scottish distilleries to independent bottling from various independent bottlers across the world, the shop is a haven for whisky lovers.
Behind these treasures sits the man who makes the vault available and affordable for the common man. He is a veteran in the whisky industry in Taiwan, with more than 15 years of experience under his belt. His name is Tony Chiu, and today, we tell his story.
The Birth of HNWS
Tony breathes life into HNWS in September 2005 as a young man who was ready to take on the world head to head. He started his whisky journey when he joined Maxxium Taiwan (current day Edrington Taiwan) in 2001. In his four years in the company, Tony evolved from a man who doesn’t drink into a whisky lover. As his passion for whisky deepens, Tony took the plunge and opened his own whisky shop – HNWS – in Taoyuan, Taiwan.
Tony’s Adventures in the Early Days of HNWS
As an entrepreneur and a whisky lover, Tony feels that drinking whisky that one likes is more important than drinking every whisky in the market. Due to this belief, he promotes whiskies to his customers based on what they like, not what he wants to sell. His reputation as a fellow whisky lover soon reached the ears of the matured whisky market in Taiwan, and HNWS slowly but steadily becomes popular. Tony also entered the independent bottlers (IB) market, where he believes that quality whiskies existed.
The IB journey was exciting as Tony researched intensely to find high qualities products with interesting flavours profiles. The hard work paid off, and his shop becomes synonymous with good quality products. His IB journey eventually brought him into a circle of friends who love IB brands and encourage him to launch his own brand.
The launch of HNWS as an Independent Bottler
Tony took the next step forward in 2014 and launched his own independent bottler brand – HNWS. With his determination and passion, his humble shop becomes more than just a shop. It becomes a brand; an independent bottler. In the four years since he started this journey, Tony kept his initial vision for his shop in mind – to only sell good quality products. Every HNWS bottling was a quality-assured product and his fans around Taiwan and the region agree!
To make his success even more prominent, we only have to look toward the international stage to see the various awards that Tony’s bottling have won.
Malt Manics Awards (MMA)
We know that awards are further assurance that a whisky is of a good quality. Tony’s bottles have won various awards in the MMA since 2016. Considering that he only started his brand in 2014, the achievements are impressive!
2016 MMA Awards
Kavalan Solist Port Cask #O090615011A abv 58.6% (Chosen for his corporate client 3RD)
Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask for HNWS Taiwan #090608021A abv 57.8%
Glenfarclas 1990 Sherry Butt for HNWS Taiwan 10 Year Anniversary #4710 abv 54%
Douglas Laing Old Particular Laphroaig 19 Years Old for HNWS Taiwan #DL10720 abv 53.3%
Strange Ways Port Charlotte 10 Years Old Madeira Cask for HNWS Taiwan #2005001572 (Chosen for his private client)
Kavalan Solist Bourbon Cask for YKE Taiwan #B080825038 abv 54% (Chosen for his corporate client)
Best Sherry Award
Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask for HNWS Taiwan #090608021A abv 57.8%
2017 MMA Award
Gold Medal and Best Peated Whisky in Premium Category
Cadenhead Ledaig 12 Years Old 2005/2017 for HNWS Taiwan’s 12thanniversary, abv 61.1%
Tony’s Cask Selection Process
When an IB is successful in a short period of time, we often wonder what its owner’s secret is. We are just as curious, so we ask Tony. It turns out that he has a strict cask selection process and he sticks to this method for every cask that he chooses. Due to the stringent process, each of HNWS bottling is a success.
Tony’s Criteria for Cask Selection
Tony is particular in his cask selection process. He believes in BALANCE, which determines his choices and leads to the “quality assured” reputation that HNWS bottlings gain over the years.
There are four “NO” in Tony’s cask selection process.
- NO sulphur: Too much sulphur in sherry matured whisky affects the nose and palate of the whisky and could also lead to a less than desirable finish. Such influences reduce the original profile of the whisky. Of course, there is an exception when a little bit of sulphur can improve the whisky.
- NO overwhelming sweetness: When a whisky is too sweet, it influences the finish of the whisky. Tony believes that the finish in a whisky is enticing; having an overwhelming sweetness that influences the finish is a big no-no.
- NO extreme oakiness: Oakiness, or what we call the astringent note in a whisky comes from the cask itself and the liquid from before. When a whisky is extremely oaky, it could mean that it has over-aged in the cask or the cask was not suitable for maturation in the first place. That denotes a whisky that is not at its optimal. An over-aged whisky tends to retain a strong bite on the tongue and affects the drinker’s ability to taste the whisky properly.
- NO overwhelming bitterness: This is mostly a problem with sherry casks. The sweetness sometimes turns bitter and create an unpleasant experience. Bitterness is split into the bitterness of medicine and the bitterness of a charred cask. Too much of either is bad.
One Final Consideration for Cask Selection is…
These four points lead back to one big consideration – BALANCE.
A balanced whisky is one which changes over time. This is Tony’s standards for his cask selection. When he is making a choice, he often asks himself many questions in order to answer all of the above. However, one vital question is not included above. That important question is “How much do I like this whisky?” While everyone’s preferences are different, he makes use of his 17 years of experience to determine the best flavour profile that his patrons love best.
Recent HNWS Bottling
Tony visits Scotland yearly to source for casks to bottle under the HNWS brands. Some of his recent bottlings include the Flight and Feathers Series – a collaboration between HNWS and a Taiwan photographer. Here are some pictures of the HNWS bottles.
Flight and Feather Series 3 – High Coast (Box) 2012 5 Years Old
High Coast Distillery (formerly known as Box) is a Swedish boutique distillery in the Northern part of Sweden. Tony bottled this expression from a 40 litres cask, which yields only 63 bottles. It is precious considering its status as a single cask and the limited number of bottles available. What makes it more valuable is the HNWS logo on it.
Flight and Feathers Series 4 – Speyside 1995 23 Years Old
We did a review for the Speyside 1995, which is from Speyside Distillery, and definitely not a secret Speyside bottle. This bottle is special because it was finished in a Caol Ila cask! How unusual is that?! If you want to know how it tastes, follow this link.
Flight and Feathers Series 5 – A Kilbride Distillery 1989 28 Years Old
This mysterious bottle is an undisclosed Laphroaig matured in a bourbon cask for 28 years old. In order not to spend unnecessary money to buy the rights to use the distillery’s name (it will push final cost higher for customers), Tony uses his creativity to find an alternative name for his bottling. The Kilbride Dam is the water source for Laphroaig, and hence, “A Kilbride Distillery” is a fitting name for this bottle.
With HNWS’ anniversary coming up, we are looking forward to more bottling from HNWS in the coming month. Watch this space if you want to have the first dips on what HNWS is coming up with!