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Taiwan’s abandoned military tunnels house millions of litres of alcohol

Abandoned military tunnels in Taiwan are currently home to up to US$400 million-worth of Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor.

Taiwan's abandoned military tunnels house millions of litres of alcohol

A new documentary series uncovering secrets about Taiwan’s Mega Factories has honed in on the Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor facilities, by far the largest producer of spirits in the country.

Kinmen Kaoliang is the best selling spirit in Taiwan, with over 45,000 litres consumed across the island every day. This is equivalent to 80% of all spirits consumed in Taiwan, meaning Kinmen Kaoliang claims by far the biggest market share of any Taiwanese distillery. It selling 20 million litres of Kaoliang annually, almost twice the amount of whisky consumed in Taiwan.

Kaoliang’s name derives from the Mandarin for cereal crop sorghum. The spirit has a rich history going back to the last century. According to the documentary, people on the island farmed sorghum to make into liquor which was then traded for rice.

Taiwan’s Kinmen Islands are 200km from the Taiwanese mainland but just 2km from mainland China, meaning that they were used as part of the front line of the Chinese civil war, with major battle fought there in 1949.

The military facility may since have been abandoned and repurposed for making liquor, but the methods of producing Kaoliang are the same as they were a century ago. The sorghum mixture is fermented before distilling, and aged for a number of years before bottling.

These days, the tunnels used during the fighting are home to the tanks used to age the 120-proof spirit. As many as 3.5 million litres are held in these tanks, and the largest of the underground cellars holds 64 stainless steel containers, stretching 8m high. These tunnels may not hold military grade weapons any longer, but they are home to US$400m-worth of liquor.

“We take as much care of it as we do our children,” said Honyi Hsu, head of manufacturing section, Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor, in the documentary.

Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor isn’t the only company taking advantage of abandoned military space. Hong Kong’s Crown Wine Cellars houses its wines in a pre-World War II ammunition and weapons storage depot tucked deep into a wooded hillside. Read more on that here.

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