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Monday, February 24, 2020

Bottle Review: Omar Bourbon Type Taiwanese Single Malt

Three years ago, in a now-defunct but eternally glorious Nakano whisky bar, a Taiwanese gentleman suggested I try Omar Bourbon Type single malt. Rarely do I buy a bottle blind, but I respect the man's palate so I scooped up a bottle of the Bourbon Cask when I returned home.

Opened by the Republic of China in 1978 (a good year), Nantou Distillery made fruit liqueurs, brandies and rums for the first three decades of its existence. In 2009 a new facility began distilling malt whisky spirit, branded as "Omar" (Gaelic for amber), leading to inaugural releases in 2013 and 2014. Their core range, Bourbon Type and Sherry Type, debuted the following year. They have since released over 200 cask strength and liqueur/wine cask finished expressions.

Though Omar single malt is now distributed on three continents, it lives in the critical shadow of Kavalan, the other Taiwanese single malt. How much Kavalan deserved its initial boisterous reception is a matter of personal preference. I have found Kavalan's celebrated single cask expressions so cask-driven that I have no idea what the spirit beneath tastes like. My experience with Kavalan's bourbon cask expressions, both single cask and large-batched, is far from positive. It was my pronouncement of this concern that initiated the suggestion that I try Omar Bourbon Type.

So I did.

Distillery: Nantou
Owner: TTL, which is owned by the ROC
Brand: Omar
Region: Nantou, Taiwan
Age: 7 years or younger
Maturation: bourbon casks
Bottling Date: 2016
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltration? ???
Colorant? ???
(from the upper third of my purchased bottle)

The nose begins with fresh whole wheat bread and croissants. Then lemons, kiwi and picked ginger. Witbier and newspapers. Hints of calvados, flower blossoms and chocolate malt. The thick, malty palate shines with a bright tartness and an herbal bitterness. There are toasted grains, toasted almonds, lemons and hot oregano to be found. Vanilla? Not so much. The finish holds that refreshing tartness, bitterness and barley......ness. It's toasty, with almonds and bran flakes. No vanilla, nearly no sugar.

This is Malt Whisky like I've rarely experienced in products from more famous whisky-producing nations. The sizable angel's share has not turned the whisky into an oak infusion, instead the climate and quality cask management has brought the spirit's crisp character to the fore after 5-7 years. I tried Omar Bourbon Type alongside the other two whiskies being reviewed this week, as well as Glenmorangie 10. This whisky won by a large margin. Thank you, Odin, for the suggestion!

Availability - Asia, Europe and the United States
Pricing - $35 to $95, depending on the country
Rating - 85