At the forefront of the Korean whisky market the last decade has been a a Korean founded and owned distiller by the name Golden Blue Whisky. The company has been around for less time than quite a few of their most aged products. Despite their upstart status they have made quite a dent in a difficult market with their innovative approach to a traditionalist drink.
It came from Busan
Golden Blue was formed in South Korea’s second city Busan in 2009. After a few difficult years the company was taken over by local business man Park Yong-soo in 2011. After a founding and later selling an automotive parts company he was ready to dedicate himself to introducing the dram to a new generation of Korean drinkers.
Under Park the company has been so successful that they have managed to grow their sales every year. This despite the fact that the total whisky market has shrunk during this time. They have their goals set on becoming the largest whisky brand in Korea by the year 2020.
Innovation and re-targeting
So how has golden blue managed this remarkable feat? They have consistently been one step ahead of their competitors in predicting and adapting to the changing patterns of Korean drinkers. They have avoided targeting the traditional style of Korean whisky drinker. Instead they have aimed at finding new customer segments. Instead of marketing their products by stressing their age or traditional scotch heritage Golden Blue has instead opted for a product with lower alcohol and non traditional packaging. This has made their drinks popular among many who were previously not willing to try whisky or felt intimidated by the spirits exclusive reputation.
Golden Blue’s Whiskies have been sold at an affordable price and a lower alcohol level of 36.5% ABV. Their packaging has been a distinct blue bottle with statement of the whisky’s age. Recently they have taken even bigger steps to distance themselves from traditional scotch by introducing a “white whisky” known as “Phantom the White”. This is a blend of scotch whiskies filtrated to create a clear spirit meant primarily for mixing.
The company has been attacked by it’s competitors for having an inferior product. This is because scotch whisky should have an ABV of 40% or above according to the Scotch Whisky Association. They have in turn defended themselves saying that neither a lower alcohol or a lack of aging statement means that their whisky is worse than the more traditional brands.
Both Pernod Ricard and Diageo have criticized Golden Blue’s marketing methods. Their lack of age statment has been claimed to hide a low quality blend. Yet both of the companies have followed their example and introduced lower alcohol whisky based spirits of their own.
Golden Blue Whisky – Truly Korean?
While Golden blue is a Korean company their Whiskies are still created by blending imported scotch whiskies. Owner Park Yong-soo has said that the ultimate goal is to produce a true homegrown whisky. He project that in the next 10 years Golden blue will launch a whisky that is 100% Korean. Hopefully this will help put Korea on the global whisky map.
Golden Blue homepage(Korean & English)