Korean liquor in own award class

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Korean liquor in own award class

Traditional Korean liquors now have their own category in an international food and drink award, paving the way for more global recognition.

Kooksoondang Brewery, an alcoholic drink producer specializing in traditional Korean wines and liquor, said on Wednesday that a new category called “K-Sool” has been created at Belgium’s International Taste & Quality Institute, or iTQi, award.

Up until now, Korean liquors have been entering international competitions under the “sake” category, which is actually Japanese rice wine, and even if Korean drinks won an award, they were often mistaken for sake.

Previously, there have been categories under “makgeolli,” an unrefined Korean rice wine known more as a farmers’ drink, but it is the first time a category for K-Sool, or Korean liquor in a broader sense, has been established for international tasting contests.

Although Korea and Japan both produce liquor with fermented rice, each has its own distinct method of brewing liquor with a different type of nuruk, or rice wine starter. While Koreans add medicinal herbs or fruits to the drink, the Japanese counterpart is solely based on rice and nuruk. Still, many foreigners find it difficult to distinguish between the two liquors.

The new category is expected to expand the presence of Korean alcoholic drinks in the global market and help people identify the uniqueness of the drink.

“A separate category for K-Sool is meaningful in that Korea can introduce various Korean herbal liquor and fruit wines to the global market,” said Hong Kyung-sun, a manager at Kooksoondang. “We hope many of our Korean liquor products can be awarded in international competitions and step into the world market along with the popularity of Korean foods.”

While the makgeolli category was created first, it took more time to establish a K-Sool category.

“We first worked to establish a category under a well-known liquor type, which was makgeolli, and now we are trying to expand the category to K-Sool to include various other types of Korean liquor as well,” said a spokesman from the company.

With iTQi as a start, Kooksoondang is looking forward to creating K-Sool categories in 20 other contests. Until now, the makgeolli category has been established in 10 international competitions, including iTQi in Belgium, the International Wine & Spirit competition held in the United Kingdom and the New York International Wine competition in the United States.

In the meantime, entry applications for the iTQi have opened and are due on March 10. Final winners will be announced in Brussels on June 2.

“Makgeolli is one type of alcoholic beverage, but Korea has many other types of good hard liquor, and we hope to gain momentum for exports [through such opportunities],” said Jeon Min-jae of the Korea Traditional Alcoholic Beverage Development Association.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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