Following on from our 2013 Whisky Live preview with Andy Watts, I’m happy to bring you an interview with Ian Chang, master blender at Kavalan in Taiwan. “Taiwanese whisky?!?!” I hear you cry. Yes, it exists, and it’s good!
WTF: Hi Ian, can you give my readers a bit of a background on yourself, King Car distillery and Kavalan?
IC: I have been working in the distillery for more than seven years now since graduating from university in the UK, which is very inspirational to me to be able to be in the spirits industry.
Before I joined Kavalan distillery, I was invited to come for an interview for the position of a researcher in the R&D team back in 2005, and after a series of sensory tests, I was recruited. Now, I am the master blender for Kavalan whisky.
Basically I carry out all the in-house production controls and blending operations. Trained in the UK, and supervised in part by Dr. Swan, I visit Scotland and England regularly, to hone my craft. At the same time, I learn the profiles of individual whiskies in the distillery and memorise all the characteristics of our casks of whiskies in mind while composing the recipes of the portfolio.
WTF: Will this be your first time out to South Africa?
IC: Yes, it’s my first time out to South Africa and I am very excited and positive about our first presence in South Africa which is a growing market for premium single malt. We look forward to entertain and share the Taiwanese quality whisky with whisky aficionados and consumers in South Africa. Looking into the future, we would like to hopefully make South Africa to be our base for the future development of the entire African markets.
WTF: More specifically, what is your take on Whisky Live SA and the SA whisky community?
IC: South Africa has its own distilleries and there are more and more discerning whisky drinkers in the country who are open, innovative and would love to try quality whiskies from the new world. The whisky community may not be big but the members are all serious drinkers.
WTF: Which you be attending both the Soweto and Sandton legs of the festival?
IC: I will be attending the Sandton festival this year. Next time, if the other date suits me, I would be glad to attend both of them.
WTF: What will you & Kavalan be doing at Whisky Live?
IC: We have a stand in the event and I will hold the tastings sharing the story of our distillery and the character of our whisky.
WTF: Can you give us more info on the workshops you will be hosting at the Sandton leg?
IC: Apart from the Kavalan classic and our Solist range, the attendees will have the chance to try the limited edition of Kavalan Distillery Reserve, which is not available in South Africa.
WTF: Which Kavalan whiskies will be available for visitors to taste at the festival?
IC: Kavalan single malt whisky (a.k.a Kavalan Classic), Concertmaster, King Car Conductor and the Solist range: ex-Bourbon, Sherry and Vinho.
WTF: And what about any of your more exclusive releases, like the Distillery Reserve Peaty Cask or the WWA 2013 Best Asian Single Malt winner, the Solist Fino?
IC: For the exclusive releases, they will be introduced on the workshops.
WTF: I’m glad to see that Kavalan will soon be/is available in South Africa. Can you tell us how that has come about?
IC: Our ultimate goal is to share Kavalan with whisky connoisseurs around the globe. So we have partnered with Aficionados as we see them as an expert and professional importer for the South African market.
WTF: Which expressions will be available in the South African market?
IC: The core range except for Solist Fino will be available in South Africa and will be launched soon if we receive positive feedback from the event.
WTF: what is your favourite Kavalan whisky, and why?
IC: Each expression of Kavalan is complex and diverse with its own distinctive flavours. I usually take a dram of Kavalan Classic with my friends after work as it is so relaxing and easy to drink for any occasions.
WTF: An in conclusion, what is your favourite non-Kavalan whisky and why?
IC: Whisky is all about the environment. I would say my favourite time and place to enjoy a dram is that every night after a long day of work, I always have a dram right after shower and before going to bed. It gets even better when the stereo is on playing smooth jazz…
Thank your for your time and input Ian. I’m sure that many folks – myself included – will be keen to hear your story and learn more about the single malt being produced in Taiwan. Ian’s workshop dates and times can be found over here.