spunktitud3

Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun

Taiwan – Getting acquainted with Taiwan’s Celebration Drink: Kinmen Kaoliang 金門酒廠一游

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金門高粱酒

If you have been to a banquet in Taiwan, you would probably have said “gan bei 干杯” with a shot (or more) of Kaoliang/sorghum wine高粱酒. The iconic liquor is a must-try for any visitor to Taiwan, and I was fortunate enough to be invited for a tour of 金門酒廠 Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor Inc. which produces one of the most popular brands of kaoliang in Taiwan.

金門高粱酒

Welcome to Kinmen Kaoliang!
Our guide is so cute! I think I am high even before drinking any kaoliang lol
A form of white liquor (baijiu 白酒) originating from the Ming period, Kaoliang is a distilled cereal liquor made from fermented sorghum with an alcohol content between 38 and a hefty 63 percent. It is the mainstay at any Taiwanese celebratory banquets, and also gaining popularity in Korea where it is called goryangju 고량주. Kaoliang is produced today on the Taiwanese islands of Matsu and Kinmen. Kinmen Kaoliang produces an astounding 200,000 bottles of liquor daily.

金門高粱酒

Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor has two plants, a historic facility overlooking the sea, and a new one right in the center of the island fronted by two giant bottles of kaoliang. The new plant is open for public visits(blue areas). The restricted red areas are the liquor production zones, so was feeling fab we were allowed access for a closer look.

金門高粱酒

3D architectural model of the factory
Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor is fully owned by the Kinmen County Government. The distillery is the primary economic source of Kinmen county, providing a vital source of employment and funding for local construction and welfare programs –that it earned the nickname “Golden Hen 金母鸡”. The benefits are not bad at all: the liquor company’s profits are used to provide free milk for junior high school and elementary school students, offer each resident NT$3,600 in liquor company coupons during three major holidays, give local students as well as the underprivileged NT$4,000 transportation vouchers annually, and every student between NT$5,000 and NT$10,000 in tuition stipends. No wonder Kinmen was voted as the most fortunate place in Taiwan, 好幸福哦!

金門高粱酒

The popular spirit comes in a wide range of packaging and alcohol content, with the standard being 58 percent (men like this) and 38 percent (ladies prefer the milder version). Many drinkers like Kinmen Kaoliang not only because of its taste – the liquor, although stronger than most brandy and whiskey, does not give them a hangover. I think I know some friends who would appreciate not looking like Dracula the next morning.

金門高粱酒

Commemorative wine for the 100th Anniversary of Kinmen County’s Founding
Apart from the standard 38 and 58 percent offerings, the winery also produces many types of commemorative and limited edition bottles. In fact, these bottles hold better value than LV bags – a 2011 limited edition bottle with a production of only 2,000 bottles sold for more than twice its retail price of TWD29,800 (USD993) at the first selling.

Throughout my Taiwan trip, I kept seeing people go into wine retail shops, and even provision shops asking about availability of commemorative bottles. Looks like I should buy a few bottles to keep too…that would be my visit-Taiwan-again investment fund.

金門高粱酒

How cute – a wine specially for celebrations, complete with a bowtie! :)
The taste of kaoliang is clear, fragrant, smooth with a mellow sweet aftertaste that warms the stomach. It tastes great drunk neat or as a cocktail, and pairs well with Chinese dishes such as stir-fry and hot pot.

金門高粱酒

Pssst, the best way to enjoy kaoliang is to hold it in the mouth for a few seconds before swallowing.

金門高粱酒

How Kinmen became a success in producing kaoliang is a pretty interesting turn of fate – the idea of starting a liquor factory originated in 1952 from Kinmen’s first defense commander, General Hu Lien 胡璉. With 100,000 soldiers to feed and an infertile land with soil so poor only drought-tolerant plants such as peanuts, wheat and sorghum flourished, the general had to think of a way to ease the financial burden while fighting the war with mainland China. He came up with the idea of encouraging local farmers to grow sorghum and barter their harvest for an equal quantity of imported rice. The sorghum was then used to produce liquor.

金門高粱酒

It wasn’t a bed of roses as the liquor had to be sold secretly during its first 23 years due to the country’s tobacco and wine monopoly system at that time. Over time, Kinmen gained a reputation as a producer of quality kaoliang, sorghum and wheat cultivation expanded, growing into a significant economic contributor of Kinmen.

金門高粱酒

Lucky Wine 开运酒 – I want one of this!

金門高粱酒

For a minimum order of 50 bottles, you can choose to customise your bottle of kaoliang – definitely a great way to make a lasting impression.

金門高粱酒

I shudder to ask how much this set is worth.

金門高粱酒

Oooh, this is uber-retro.

金門高粱酒

Kinmen kaoliang is made in three major stages (ferment-making, Fermentation and Distillation, Packaging) over more than two months, with repeated fermentation and distillation to produce a clean liquor.

金門高粱酒

Off we go on our plant visit!

金門高粱酒

In the first phase wheat and water are used to produce yeast, the foundation of all alcoholic beverages.

金門高粱酒

It’s a flurry of activity at the plant

金門高粱酒

Sorghum is cooked and mixed with yeast to begin fermentation, followed by two hours of distillation.

金門高粱酒

金門高粱酒

The grain goes through another fermenting process before being redistilled one month later.

金門高粱酒

金門高粱酒

He ain’t no Harry Potter, but looks very nifty with the broom

金門高粱酒

Liquids from the first and second distillations are then blended to create a fine tasting kaoliang at an appropriate alcohol content.

金門高粱酒

This first distillation has 80 percent alcohol content. You can’t even smell it without flipping over – literally.

金門高粱酒

Kai looking visibly happily after a sip :) Actually, it tasted sweet and smooth, and comfortably warms to the stomach. As long as you do not inhale.

金門高粱酒

We spotted this man scooping along the walkway, What is he doing?

金門高粱酒

That’s where the sorghum from the first distillation is collected. I was so tempted to scoop some up to try…

金門高粱酒

At another plant, the other essential ingredient, wheat, is made into ‘bricks’ and allowed to ferment. The finished product is then ground and added into the sorghum for fermentation.

金門高粱酒

They sure look like building blocks! And pretty heavy.

金門高粱酒

金門高粱酒

Ferment Cultivation
The environment is kept cool and dry.

金門高粱酒

Wanting to eat something again. But I am more likely to break my teeth.

金門高粱酒

Off to the last stage of production…Packaging!

金門高粱酒

金門高粱酒

The products from the first and second distillations are blended to achieve its appropriate strength, after which the liquor is allowed to mature in a cellar to remove any unpleasant flavors of the mash.

金門高粱酒

Finally, the liquor has to pass through quality testing before it can be bottled and sold.

金門高粱酒

Looking so intently…for what???

金門高粱酒

I was a little baffled what the ladies staring at the fast-moving bottles against a lighted box were looking out for…they had to spot if there were any impurities in the liquor. The offending bottle would be taken off the line and poured away.

金門高粱酒

There goes another bottle. It’s such stringent measures that ensure the reputation of a Kinmen Kaoliang.

金門高粱酒

She must have the most stress-free job in the world
The rejected glass bottles are smashed and sent for recycling. I don’t mind doing her job for a day. :)

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And TA_DAH! All packed and ready to go to the shops! :)

金門高粱酒

Thank you for a very informative plant visit!
I have no doubt the popularity of Kinmen Kaoliang will continue to grow, and in time to come the tasty drink will make its way to other parts of the world. The company is not resting on its laurels too – it has launched an award-winning whitening mask and a facial gel—both made from extracts of kaoliang!

Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor Inc. 
Address: No.1 Tao Yuan Road , Kin Ning Shiang, Kinmen County 892, Taiwan 金門縣金寧鄉桃園路一號
See here for directions
Tel:+886 82 32 5628
Opening Hours: Daily 8:00AM to 12:00PM; 1:30PM to 5:30PM
Guided Tours: 8:30AM to 11:30AM; 2:00PM to 5:00PM
Places of Interest
– Scenic Park
– Museum of Liquor History
– Welfare Department (this is actually the retail shop, what a name! LOL)
Recommended Duration: 1 to 1.5 hours
Visiting Kinmen? This map of Kinmen will be useful for you (Source: Kinmen County website).

Read more posts on Kinmen
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Author: spunktitud3

A little post by a fun-loving spunky gal in love with the quirky, the artsy and anything which inspires new creations. Read about her adventures on: spunktitud3.wordpress.com

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