Whisky blending at the world’s best single malt distillery – Yilan Food Trip
December 12, 2016 1 Comment
Heavy workload has taken quite an unusual toll on our yearly Christmas vacation. No matter how early I planned my vacation with Felicia and Elkan, major important projects disrupted all my planning. Unable to spend 2 weeks away with my family, I felt really terrible and guilty. Thankfully, they are very understanding and loving. After a few adjustments, I managed to plan a short weekend getaway with them in Taipei last weekend.
As always, I kept the destination a secret. Elkan had no idea where we were bringing him. He was extremely excited when we told him that we were flying to Malaysia. He is a foodie and he is fond of all savoury street food. Since he didn’t know we were traveling up north, he packed very little clothes. Thinking it must be hot and humid in Malaysia, Elkan wore shorts and jersey. He was actively planning his eating itinerary when we were walking on the air bridge.
As blur as he can be, the streets of Taiwan do resemble the shop houses of Kuala Lumpur. He simply had no idea that we tricked him until we pointed out to him. Of course, he wasn’t intrigued by Taipei 101 or Ximending (西门町). What captivated his senses were the braised pork rice and peppery Taiwanese sausages!
We took the morning flight and arrived in Taipei at 1030am. We dropped our bags at the hotel and hired a taxi for a 4-hour round trip to Jiufen and Shifen. Weather was surprisingly good, this was the first time when I didn’t need to carry an umbrella. It was raining cats and dogs the last 4 times I was here.
It was extremely crowded at Jiufen Old Street (九份老街). There were so many Singaporean tourists here too. It was so easy to identify our own people. Felicia, Tracy and Elkan were delighted by the local street delicacies. They just couldn’t stop munching.
At Shifen Old Town (十份老街), we visited the newly renovated Shifen Waterfall Park (十份瀑布) and the old railway town where hundred of people were releasing sky lanterns (孔明灯／天灯) on the railway track. We were very lucky to see the train bypassing the old town (timing: 430pm-5pm). It was an unexpected and interesting sight. We didn’t even have time to figure out what was going on until we saw the approaching train. Within seconds, street vendors ushered the crowd out of the tracks. It was a very narrow track and when the train went by, I was just standing less 2 feets away. What an experience!
Despite the warning penalties and signages, the crowd gathered back at the track instantly right after the train left. What a dramatic and spectacular scene transformation.
Day 2 – next morning, we headed out to Yilan (宜兰）with our Taiwanese friends, Chen and his son, Yifang. They drove 2 hours from Taizhong (台中) and picked us up at our hotel in Taipei. The journey to Yilan took around 90 minutes with a couple of jams along the highway.
We stayed one night at a modern farm hotel (River Forest Farm Hotel) located at Dongshan. Surrounded by paddy fields and fancy villas, we explored and cycled around the big farming estate. The air was so fresh and cooling. The calm reflection of the paddy fields created a surreal landscape, a healthy and quiet place to calm my hectic mind.
I was looking forward to fly my new Mavic Pro at Yilan but weather condition was awful. It rained for 2 continuous days. Stranded indoor, I had to forego all the outdoor itineraries. Instead, we visited some of Yilan’s prestigious food factories.
Kavalan Whisky Distillery was one of the main reasons why I made a stopover at Yilan. It is afterall the world’s best single malt Whisky! The distillery was free and opened to public. There was no age restriction, children of any ages were welcome. To my disappointment, there wasn’t any guided tour. Tour was pretty much self-guided and intuitive with many educational exhibits. I gave my son a short Whisky induction. From malting to distilling to ageing, we were greeted by Kavalan’s massive production line. We stopped by the retail store for more free whisky tasting and bought a couple of miniatures for our friends back home.
Before we left, we signed up for an exclusive Whisky DIY Class where we got to blend and personalize our own whisky. We spent about about 45 minutes inside the classroom experimenting over 15 unique blends. In the end, all of us picked Chen’s creation as the most favourite blend. Using his recipe (1.5A, 1.5B & 3C), I reproduced 2 bottles for our VIP friends!
Chen recommended 2 other big factories that we must visit – the famous Taiwanese cookie (宜兰饼发明官) and rice noodle factory (宜兰虎牌米粉). Elkan was super happy because those were his favourite food! It was a great educational trip for the 2 young boys. For the adults, we enjoyed all the delicious food samplings! We had so much yummy food that there was no need for lunch! It felt like a road trip down Australia’s Margaret River where tourists are pampered with local dairy goodies.
All in all, it was a very short getaway with the family. Work was constantly, subconsciously flashing in my mind despite being away from office. Nevertheless, it was a good break with many priceless family -&-friends moments (our failed Mannequin Challenge and Extreme Bottle Flip was hilarious). As the saying goes, work hard, play harder. Enjoy the photos and vlogs. Looking forward to our next adventure!