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Golden Blue seeks to develop real 'Korean whisky'

All Headlines 10:27 June 20, 2016

SEOUL, June 20 (Yonhap) -- Golden Blue is fast expanding its presence in South Korea with a low-alcohol whisky brand to lead a new trend, but its ultimate goal is to develop "real Korean whisky" made with a homemade solution, its chief executive said.

Golden Blue, a homegrown whisky released in 2009 by a fledgling Korean distiller based in the southeastern port city of Busan, has been increasingly widening its base among whisky lovers who prefer a mild taste and affordable price tag.

Golden Blue has imported an undiluted solution from Scotland and mixes different age whiskies to create the desired flavors. Unlike a typical whisky with a Scotch label and 40-percent alcohol, the liquor in the dark blue bottle has 36.5 percent alcohol content and does not show its age on its package.

"Golden Blue has recently become the No. 2 whisky brand in the domestic market, but our ultimate goal is developing 'real Korean whisky,'" chairman Park Yong-soo said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency at his Seoul office. "We want to have domestic customers taste the real homegrown whisky that was distilled and fermented here 10 years later."

Since its debut, Golden Blue has immediately made splash in the market as younger consumers preferred low-alcohol whisky and Scotch whisky fell out of favor amid the prolonged economic slowdown.

Sales of Golden Blue have risen for the sixth consecutive year since its launch, bucking the downward trend of the local whisky market that has been sliding since the 2008 global financial crisis.

As a result, Golden Blue's market ratio has risen from 1.5 percent in 2011, to 6.6 percent in 2013 and then 16.1 percent, or the sale of 281,792 boxes, in 2015. The company aims to earn 250 billion won (US$210 million) in sales by 2020 to become the nation's No. 1 whisky-maker.

Park said Golden Blue could infiltrate the domestic market by introducing low-alcohol whisky in accordance with the latest consumption trend.

"Flexible communication system helped to break the existing framework to present a 36.5 percent alcohol whisky for the first time in the nation," the 69-year-old said.

Park, who formerly founded auto parts maker Taekyung T&G and sold it to a German company in 2011, took over Golden Blue that same year, which was up for sale due to financial trouble. It was not an easy decision to make considering the tough market condition and bad financial statement of the company, the businessman said.

"I decided to take it over because I wanted to make Korea's own brand, also taking consideration of its brand power, profitability and long-term visions," Park said. "At that time, nobody would have imagined that the fledgling local company would beat global whisky brands."

To further promote the brand, Park still carries boxes of Golden Blue in his car to recommend it to his acquaintances and drink it together whenever chances arise.

"I can't drink as much as I used to, but I spare no toil for promoting Golden Blue," said the avid drinker, who received a liver transplant 10 years ago. "How can an alcohol-maker company's chief can say no to drinks?"


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