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鋐釀酒坊, or what is better known as HNWS in this part of the world, is a popular whisky shop in Taoyuan, Taiwan. In the shop tucked away from the main street, a wealth of whisky treasures sits. Ranging from official bottling from countless Scottish distilleries to independent bottling from various independent bottlers across the world, the shop is a haven for whisky lovers.

Behind these treasures sits the man who makes the vault available and affordable for the common man. He is a veteran in the whisky industry in Taiwan, with more than 15 years of experience under his belt. His name is Tony Chiu, and today, we tell his story.

The Birth of HNWS

Tony breathes life into HNWS in September 2005 as a young man who was ready to take on the world. He started his whisky journey when he joined Maxxium Taiwan (current day Edrington Taiwan) in 2001. In his four years in the company, Tony evolved from a man who doesn’t drink into a whisky lover. As his passion for whisky deepens, Tony took the plunge and opened his own whisky shop – HNWS – in Taoyuan, Taiwan.

Tony’s Adventures in the Early Days of HNWS

As an entrepreneur and a whisky lover, Tony feels that one should drink whisky that one likes. Due to this belief, he takes special care to remember his customer’s preferences. He then promotes whiskies to them based on what they like, not what he wants to sell. His reputation as a fellow whisky lover soon reached the ears of the matured whisky market in Taiwan, and HNWS slowly but steadily becomes popular. Tony also entered the independent bottlers (IB) market, where he believes that quality whiskies exist.

The IB journey was exciting as Tony researched intensely to find high qualities products with interesting flavours profiles. The hard work paid off, and his shop becomes synonymous with good quality products. His IB journey eventually brought him into a circle of friends who love IB brands and encourage him to launch his own brand.

The launch of HNWS as an Independent Bottler

Tony took the next step in 2014 and launched his own independent bottler brand – HNWS. With his determination and passion, his humble shop becomes more than just a shop. It becomes a brand; an independent bottler. In the years that followed, Tony kept his initial vision for his shop in mind – to only sell good quality products. Every HNWS bottling is a quality-assured product and his fans around Taiwan and the region agree!

To make his success even more prominent, we only have to look toward the international stage to see the various awards that Tony’s bottlings have won.

Tony’s Criteria for Cask Selection

Tony is particular in his cask selection process. He believes in BALANCE, which determines his choices and leads to the “quality assured” reputation that HNWS bottlings gain over the years.

There are four “NO” in Tony’s cask selection process

  1. NO sulphur: Too much sulphur in sherry matured whisky affects the nose and palate of the whisky and could also lead to a less than desirable finish. Such influences reduce the original profile of the whisky. Of course, there is an exception when a little bit of sulphur can improve the whisky.
  2. NO overwhelming sweetness: When a whisky is too sweet, it influences the finish of the whisky. Tony believes that the finish in a whisky is enticing; having an overwhelming sweetness that influences the finish is a big no-no.
  3. NO extreme oakiness: Oakiness, or what we call the astringent note in a whisky comes from the cask itself and the liquid from before. When a whisky is extremely oaky, it could mean that it has over-aged in the cask, or the cask was not suitable for long maturation in the first place. That denotes a whisky that is not at its optimal. An over-aged whisky tends to retain a strong bite on the tongue and affects the drinker’s ability to taste the whisky properly.
  4. NO overwhelming bitterness: This is mostly a problem with sherry casks. The sweetness sometimes turns bitter and create an unpleasant experience. Bitterness is split into the bitterness of medicine and the bitterness of a charred cask. Too much of either is bad.

One Final Consideration for Cask Selection is…

These four points lead back to one big consideration – BALANCE.

A balanced whisky is one which changes over time. It is Tony’s standards for his cask selection. When he is making a choice, he often asks himself many questions to answer all of the above. However, one vital question is not included above. That important question is “How much do I like this whisky?” While everyone’s preferences are different, he makes use of his years of experience to determine the best flavour profile that his patrons love best.

Trying HNWS Whiskies

Spirits Castle is the official distributor for HNWS Taiwan. If you would like to try his whiskies, head on over to our shop to find a bottle that you want. Tony bottles extensively and we are sure that there will be something for everyone.

Please note: This article appears in an earlier entry at WhiskyGeek.SG. For the full article, please visit WhiskyGeeks.SG.

Slàinte Mhath,
Zerlina Zhuang