• Directory of Taiwan

The return of artisanal whisky making in Taiwan

'The Art of the Blend' brand puts the craft of master whisky makers ahead of the interests of leading distilleries

Todd Lawrence introduces 'The Art of the Blend' (Taiwan News, Sean Scanlan photo)

Todd Lawrence introduces 'The Art of the Blend' (Taiwan News, Sean Scanlan photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — On a hot and muggy afternoon, Todd Lawrence didn’t seem at all bothered that 144 bottles of his high-end whisky were languishing on a street in downtown Taipei.

While Lawrence was keeping a watchful eye over his whiskey, The Art of the Blend 01, which retails for NT$9,800 (US$350 suggested retail price) a bottle, he was also relishing the importance of this shipment to the U.S. market. It was a rush order, or a resupply, as an initial order had sold out quickly.

It was also validation that his platform for whisky makers was popular with consumers. Launching the brand was a bold venture that posed a direct challenge to the established Scotch whisky industry.

To start with, Lawrence fully embraces "blended malt whisky" as a more flavorful and artisanal product when compared to better-known and highly marketed "single malt whisky." In fact, almost all Scotch whisky is blended, with single malt whisky simply designating that the blend comes from a single distiller.

"Single malt is simply a marketing term, as all whisky is basically a blend. Even if it’s a 15-year-old single malt, it could be a blend of different whiskies, such as 18-year-old and even 20-year-old. The youngest simply has to be over 15 years."

With most single-malt whiskies being blended, it was often the skill of master whisky makers to produce a smooth, drinkable product. An art that is being lost as many master whisky makers are aging or retiring.

Thus, Lawrence launched the new brand, The Art of the Blend, as a platform for master whisky makers to produce innovative whisky that transcended individual distilleries or other conventions. In other words, Lawrence put his total trust in master whisky makers, many of whom are many years into retirement.

"I never doubted that they would produce something good. After all, their name and face are on the bottle, so there’s some professional pride driving them."

The return of artisanal whisky making in Taiwan
A new concept in high-end Scotch whisky. (Facebook, The Art of the Blend)

For the first bottle in this series, Max McFarlane, a legendary master distiller in the Scotch whiskey industry with 46 years of experience, was entrusted with producing the blended malt Scotch whisky. McFarlane has a gifted palate and nose that have created many successful single malt whiskeys, including Glengoyne, Tamdhu, Glenrothes, Bunnahabhain, and Highland Park. He’s also been awarded the World's Best Spirits Award twice.

McFarlane selected three first-fill sherry casks from different whiskey distilleries in the Speyside region of Scotland: Glenrothes First Fill Sherry Cask 8911, Craigellachie First Fill Sherry Cask 900792, and Aultmore First Fill Sherry Cask 900285.

The bold step in allowing a whisky master complete control has paid off, as the single release of 1,968 bottles quickly earned an International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) Bronze Award in 2023.

Critical acclaim gave Lawrence the chance to sign on another whisky master for a second vintage, which will be a collaboration with Dhavall Gandhi, who previously worked at Lakes Distillery and Macallan. Whiskey Magazine dubbed Gandhi the 2021 Master Distiller/Blender of the Year.

Also worth noting is the beautiful label and packaging designed by award-winning Stranger & Stranger. Each label contains detailed information about the master whisky maker as well as the contents and indication of a limited edition, single release, making the blended whisky highly collectible and sought after.

Lawrence has lived in the Taipei area for the past 28 years and has been a lifelong whisky enthusiast. He has also crafted a series of private whisky lockers to allow people to keep their whisky safe from intruders or family members who may not be aware of the extreme value of some bottles of whisky.

The Art of the Blend 01 is currently available at Prestige House in Taipei's Neihu District.