When I had just started my whisky journey I had already in mind that traveling would become part of my adventure. A few times to Scotland or perhaps to a festival in Germany or Belgium… But I never could have imagined that I would go to Taiwan for a whisky festival. Or that I would meet people there who I met through Instagram, let alone people who read my blog. So when I was offered the opportunity to join in a trip to Kaoshiung for the Whiskyfair Takao, I could not say no. 🙂
After a 12-hour flight to Taipei and a trip on the high speed train, we finally arrived in Kaohsiung. We slept in the same building as where the fair took place. Location of the event: the Sky Tower, a mighty 85-story skyscraper which is the tallest in Kaohsiung. Our room was located on the 70th floor, which offered a stunning view of the city. When I looked out the hotel window I realised how big this city actually was. It is the second largest city in Taiwan and has about 2.7 million inhabitants, to give you an impression.
After exploring the city for two days, it was time for the first ever Whiskyfair Takao! The event took place at the 74th floor on Saturday and Sunday, from 10am to 6pm. So there was plenty of time to walk around and enjoy a few drams. The exhibitors ranged from independent bottlers to bars and collectors. What made for a fantastic line-up and ditto whiskies. Many of these exhibitors normally go to European festivals as visitors. So it was great to see them behind a table with their bottes on display. When I walked around the fair I was amazed by the choice of quality whiskies. It felt like it was going to be a fun weekend.
The fair was attended by about 800 people spread over the two days. It represented a group of whisky enthusiasts not only from Taiwan but also a broader Asian market. Most people had planned a trip for the entire weekend. As many Europeans do when they go to the Whisky Fair in Limburg (Germany). And that was exactly what Michael Hsieh and Li Chunfeng envisioned. According to the organisers the split was 50/50 with Taiwanese people vs foreigners. Mostly from Hong Kong, China but also Vietnam and Malaysia.
Fairly priced whiskies
The type of bottles on the tables were as good if not better then at European whisky events. The old and rare whiskies were massively represented. Combine this with some of the (Asian) independent bottlers and you get a very nice mixture of whiskies to try. And they were all priced at a fair level too.
The combination of the location, the very good assortment of whiskies and the mixed crowd made it an event to remember. And if you happen to live in Asia and a trip to Europe is too far, then I can tell you: Whiskyfair Takao is the place to be. 🙂 It will give you glimpse into the European festivals with many good whiskies to choose from.
Asian whisky life
The night before the event we decided to visit the Drunken Master bar. It was quite crowded and filled with people who were attending the Whiskyfair. Speaking to people from Hong Kong and Japan it was clear the Whiskyfair is attracting an international crowd.
It’s hard to say something about the local whisky scene, but being able to run a bar like this it is obvious there is a huge interest in whisky in Taiwan. And when I talked to some whisky geeks later on, I discovered the scene is indeed big and that there are actually quite a few whisky bars in this country. I had always imagined that it would be difficult to get your hands on good bottles or meet local people to drink a dram together. But when I was actually there I experienced quite the opposite. Like in Europe, people are eager to share whisky and they know where to find the good stuff. And from what I understand people know each other. We always tend to say the whisky world is a small world, but being in Taiwan this seems even more true.
Hopefully I am able to return to the Whiskyfair Takao. It has been great and I think this will be an event that will earn its spot in the top whisky events. A welcome alternative to the bigger more brand driven Asian whisky events.