May 30 2024  |  Spirits & Tobacco

Kavalan expands in Asia with strategic partnerships and innovative offerings

By Hibah Noor

Kavalan Master’s Select Reserve No. 1 and No. 2 are now being offered as unique souvenirs that bridge the gap between entry level and high end

Kavalan has been significantly expanding its presence in the Asian market, with a particular focus on South Korea. 

The decision to establish a flagship store in this region demonstrates the company’s strategic focus in this region, which is being shaped by several key factors, including a significant growth in sales in South Korea, at Lotte Duty Free in particular. 

This growth isn’t just in numbers, according to Kyle Lee, Regional Manager, but also in the strengthening of collaborative ties. “Our collaboration with Lotte Singapore Duty Free is quite close. Notably, at the end of last year we established a dedicated Kavalan whisky shelf at the Lotte Duty Free shop in Terminal 3 of Singapore Changi Airport,” he says, adding that the initiative stems from strategic communications with Lotte Duty Free’s headquarters in South Korea.

Special relationship

In response to the distinct tastes and preferences of the South Korean market, Kavalan has developed exclusive whisky expressions available solely at the Seoul duty free store. These offerings are meticulously crafted to merge classic Kavalan flavor profiles with unique elements that resonate with local consumers. This initiative is part of Kavalan’s strategy to cater specifically to regional tastes. “These special releases ensure a distinctive and memorable experience for our customers,” says Lee.

Kavalan’s partnership with Lotte Duty Free plays a crucial role in enhancing the brand’s visibility and reach. “Our partnership with Lotte Duty Free is effective due to their strong presence in South Korea and international markets like Singapore and Vietnam,” Lee states. This collaboration not only boosts Kavalan’s visibility but also extends its reach across key markets. Lee sees significant potential in this relationship going forward. “We see this partnership evolving to create more exclusive products and promotions, driving mutual growth and amplifying our brand presence,” Lee continues.

Heritage and storytelling

Kavalan is strategically leveraging its Taiwanese heritage to meet the growing consumer demand for transparency about product origins and authenticity. The brand’s storytelling is deeply rooted in its origins and values, effectively connecting with both local and international audiences.

“We’re proud of our Taiwanese heritage,” says Britney Chen, Brand Ambassador and Global PR Officer. “Through various expressions, we emphasize our connection to Taiwan, highlighting traits such as adaptability and strength, and transforming disadvantages into advantages.”

Its homeland of Taiwan is central to Kavalan’s identity and its brand story, which revolves around the principles of Place, People and Perfection

This narrative is central to Kavalan’s brand story, which revolves around the principles of Place, People and Perfection. These principles form the foundation of all Kavalan’s marketing efforts, aiming to instill pride in local consumers while also introducing international audiences to the distinctive flavors from the “kingdom of fruit.” This approach not only enhances the brand’s appeal but also educates consumers about the rich cultural and geographical tapestry that influences Kavalan’s products.

Innovative technique

Kavalan employs a distinctive “Shave-Toast-Rechar” (STR) technique on its wine barrels, a process pivotal to the creation of its Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique, which was named the “World’s Best Single Malt Whisky” by the 2015 World Whiskies Awards. This innovative method plays a crucial role in enhancing the whisky’s flavor profile. Initially, the technique was revolutionary, aiming to unlock hidden and long-dormant flavors from within the oak casks. “For Vinho Barrique, we use wine casks from all over the world and to ensure consistency of quality, we deploy the STR treatment: shaving, toasting, and recharring on the wine casks,” Chen says.

Kavalan’s master blender creates exclusive whiskies geared toward specific markets, such as expressions exclusive to Lotte Duty Free in Seoul

The process begins with shaving the casks gently to remove undesirable wine flavors and acidic compounds from the inner walls. Following this, the casks undergo toasting and recharring, which not only enhances the wood’s capacity to impart rich, fruity vanilla notes but also lays down a complex backdrop of fruitiness in the whisky. “These steps enable the wine barrels to release pleasant flavors such as caramel and chocolate,” Chen explains. This meticulous approach to barrel preparation ensures that each batch of Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique offers a consistently high-quality and uniquely flavorful experience.

Cinematic influence

The inclusion of Kavalan Solist Oloroso Sherry in the South Korean film “Decision to Leave” had a subtle yet significant impact on the brand’s perception and reach. Directed by a filmmaker with a personal appreciation for the whisky, the product placement was nuanced but did not go unnoticed by discerning viewers familiar with whisky.

“While the director’s personal preference led to its inclusion in a subtle manner, it didn’t escape the notice of those with an understanding of whisky,” Chen adds. This exposure helped the brand expand its reach to diverse customer segments, particularly in Asia.

“Given the preference for sherry cask-aged whisky in Asia, Kavalan as the brand offering the most comprehensive range of sherry cask-matured whisky in the market has resonated strongly with consumers seeking their desired flavor profiles,” Chen says. This alignment with consumer preferences has enhanced Kavalan’s market position and broadened its appeal among whisky enthusiasts.

Sustainable practices

As the global community leans into sustainability, Kavalan is advancing its commitment to environmental responsibility across its production and supply chain operations, deeply integrating these efforts into the core of its business philosophy.

Kavalan employs a distinctive “Shave-Toast-Rechar” (STR) technique on its wine barrels, a process pivotal to its whiskies’ unique flavor profiles and part of its sustainability protocol

“Corporate social responsibility and environmental protection is a key thrust within our group of companies,” states Chen. These initiatives are fundamentally linked to the “Place” component of Kavalan’s brand story, emphasizing efforts to sustain and protect Kavalan’s homeland of Taiwan. The parent company of Kavalan, King Car, demonstrates this commitment through innovative repurposing practices; for instance, its coffee division transforms used coffee grounds into employee uniforms. Kavalan’s approach extends to the efficient use of by-products. “Materials such as wheat residue find new life as food or biotech products,” Chen explains.

Additionally, Kavalan is pioneering in the sustainable use of oak barrels with its STR (Shave-Toast-Rechar) technology, which allows for the efficient reuse of oak barrels, conserving forest resources and reducing the environmental footprint of its operations. This multi-faceted approach illustrates Kavalan’s dedication to environmental stewardship while ensuring the production of high-quality whisky. The whisky itself leverages the unique climatic conditions of Taiwan, particularly the fluctuating temperatures in Yilan, to enhance the natural aging process of its whisky. “Through a proprietary cask storage method distinct from conventional practices, our whisky undergoes a natural aging process,” Chen adds.

Distinctive souvenirs

As travel has once again become an important part of life, Kavalan has introduced Master’s Select Reserve No. 1 and No. 2, both inspired by the highly acclaimed Artist series – Mother Earth. These expressions utilize the same craft techniques that have previously garnered praise for Kavalan, positioning them uniquely in the market.

While they were initially reserved as higher-priced products, now the aim with these releases is to offer distinctive travel souvenirs. “These releases aim to provide customers with unique travel souvenirs, bridging the gap between entry-level and high-end offerings in the travel retail market,” Chen says. This strategic positioning is intended to appeal to a broad spectrum of travelers seeking unique and memorable products.

Long-term growth

Looking beyond 2024, Kavalan has set ambitious long-term goals in the global spirits market, focusing on sustained growth and continual innovation. The company plans to achieve these goals through strategic collaborations and a steadfast commitment to sustainability and product innovation.

“In addition to market expansion, sustainability, and product innovation, Kavalan plans to sustain growth by collaborating with professionals from diverse fields,” explains Chen. This approach is expected to bring fresh perspectives that foster innovation and creativity within the company. “This will enable us to explore new avenues for growth and development in the global spirits market,” Chen adds. By integrating insights from various industries and disciplines, Kavalan aims to enhance its product offerings and strengthen its market position, ensuring it remains competitive and relevant in a rapidly evolving industry.

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