Korea’s retail giant Lotte has announced that it has received a green light to construct a whisky distillery in Jeju island, which is reputed to have Korea’s best quality water, as the country’s whisky imports soared.
Lotte Chilsung Beverage, Lotte Group’s beverage arm, said that it has recently received the green light from Jeju to change a former tangerine farm into whisky distillery.
Construction is expected to start sometime next year but whisky release will be years away after ageing, according to the retailer.
“After getting advice from experts, we picked Jeju Island because its natural environment, clean water and temperature are optimal conditions for whisky production,” an official from Lotte Chilsung Beverage was quoted by Korean Herald.
The approval came after the whisky distillery plan was rejected by Seogwipo over concerns of an increased amount of wastewater discharge. The city later gave permission to the company after it proved the distillery will not expel a significant amount that would worsen water pollution.
Meanwhile, another retail giant Shinsegae is also considering building a whisky distillery in the pristine island using the factory of Jeju Soju.
“We have moved fast to be the first to use the clean and exotic image of Jeju Island in whisky marketing,” a Shinsegae L&B official said.
The country’s whisky market is fast expanding. According to data from the Korea Customs Service, whisky imports surged on-year by 32.4% to US$175.3 million in 2021. In the first quarter this year, it grew by a stunning 61.7% to US$52 million.
The venture into whisky comes also at a time when Koreans are drinking more at home, creating new business opportunities for beverage companies.
“Before the coronavirus pandemic, customers had no choice but to drink soju or beer at restaurants or bars, because it is what they sold. But with social distancing measures, many have started to purchase whiskies at supermarkets or convenience stores to drink at home,” said the Lotte Chilsung Beverage official.