Thursday, February 2, 2023
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Ki One Unicorn | Malt

A Tiger, a Unicorn, and an Eagle: what do all of them have in frequent? That’s proper – Korea’s Three Societies Distillery.

The title itself ought to offer you a way that one thing in regards to the distillery’s story includes three completely different formative components coming collectively. Bryan Do, the founder, is Korean American, represented by the Tiger and the Eagle, whereas his accomplice Andrew Shand is Scottish, represented by the Unicorn.

Now, I’ve beforehand reviewed on Malt the inaugural launch from the Korean distillery: the Tiger, which was aged for 13 months in virgin American oak casks. Within the blink of a watch we’re clocking in at 21 months of getting old – or, particularly two extra seasons, in Korea – which is the premise of the second launch: the Unicorn.

We’ve already gone into element the story behind the Three Societies Distillery, so I gained’t put on out my expensive keyboard going over it once more. As an alternative, I wish to speak economics and commerce coverage. Now, earlier than you rise up and go away, let me clarify why they matter to a rustic like South Korea!

There are lots of methods to classify alcohol: distilled versus non-distilled, completely different base components, geographical places, pot nonetheless versus column nonetheless, and so forth. It’s as diverse as there are individuals on this planet. Okay, that may have been an exaggeration, however you get the concept.

Right here’s one other method to consider it, and I discover it more and more pertinent as extra international locations exterior of the UK start to dabble into making their very own whiskies: native alcohol or international alcohol. This doesn’t need to do with the place it’s produced (that’s for one more time), however whether or not or not a particular alcohol hails from a particular nation. Korea has Soju and Makkgeolli, Japan has Sake and Shochu, Scotland has – in fact – whisky.

It’s fairly obvious that many of those alcohol producers show to be formidable forces in every of those international locations’ economies. Not solely do they exert appreciable political suasion, however they’re additionally chargeable for some fairly necessary stuff like employment. In international locations like Japan, Suntory and Asahi’s enterprise go far past alcoholic drinks and have unfold their pursuits throughout many sides of society far faraway from fermenting some alcohol.

Or, check out Taiwan – which has now change into one of many main whisky producing areas – the place Kavalan Distillery was held again for a very long time as a result of the federal government themselves wished to monopolise the profitable alcohol market to boost tax income with their very own Taiwan Beer. To those of us, alcohol isn’t simply good instances and high quality craft; it’s additionally a complete lot of economics and coverage.

Given how large these alcohol companies are and the importance they’ve nationally, you’ll be able to count on that they’re given a complete lot of safety, which is the place the commerce coverage is available in. As globalization would have it, each market immediately interacts with each other; customers in Japan completely love America’s bourbon, drinkers in America can’t get sufficient of Mexico’s tequila, the world is head over heels for Japan’s whisky. The beauty of the world we dwell in in the present day, is that – for probably the most half – if we just like the produce of one other nation, we are able to get our fingers of it with out travelling overseas and lugging a few bottles all the best way again.
Who might argue towards having extra choices? Native companies can. When international merchandise begin to give native produce a run for his or her cash, you may think governments start to really feel the warmth to guard their very own variety.

This could take the type of authoritarian banning of sure merchandise outright, however extra generally entails tax and tariffs on worldwide imports. This itself can stretch from clear taxation of sure international locations’ merchandise to one thing a little bit extra discreet, creating tariffs for any merchandise that simply so occur to fall out of a extremely slim definition that appears vaguely an identical to some kind of nationwide product.

Right here’s an instance: Japan’s Shochu, while now mounting a comeback, had suffered a long time of decline that was painful to observe. This affected the complete financial system of one among Japan’s largest islands, Kyushu (in reality, the third largest of Japan’s 5 primary islands) given that the majority Shochu makers have been concentrated within the area. Would you be stunned, then, that the World Commerce Organisation (WTO) discovered that Japan had taxed Shochu far more favourably in comparison with international spirits, having categorised them as dissimilar to what would fall underneath “distilled spirits?”

Let’s check out one other instance: the whisky scene in Korea, or slightly the dearth thereof. Considerably two faces of the identical coin, Korea has a extremely beneficial tax regime for native Korean specialty spirits (even when the components are imported), which sounds completely affordable… that’s, till you contemplate Three Societies Distillery’s endeavour to create a localized Korean born and bred whisky. Regardless of the distillery being Korean, with whisky manufacturing in Korea and progressively transferring in the direction of totally utilizing Korean components (barley, oak, yeast, the works), the distillery’s produce is taxed way more harshly, just because whisky is taken into account a “western alcohol.” Distillery founder Bryan Do highlights this as a key motive why Korea lacks a whisky scene.

As you’ll be able to see, what we’re in a position to devour isn’t purely a perform of style; slightly, the invisible fingers of economics and commerce coverage have an enormous half to play in what’s in your glass.
Now let’s get to making an attempt Three Societies’ new Ki-One Unicorn which has undergone 21 months of ageing “by the 4 seasons of the peninsula” in virgin oak, bottled at 56.6% ABV.

Three Societies Distillery Ki One Unicorn Version Korean Single Malt – Assessment

Virgin American oak casks. 21 months outdated. Retails for about US$100 in South Korea.

Color: Maple syrup gold.

On the nostril: Deep but mellowed; melted brown sugar with vanilla pods, honeyed, with mild touches of cinnamon. It opens up gently with nice pacing. Because it airs, extra stone fruits, berries, and fruit jam present up: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries. Vivid, but extra intently resembling cooked fruit.

Within the mouth: Nice heat is the primary noticeable facet, increase with an excellent weight and a texture just like maltose sweet. Notes of honey, caramel and baking spices come by with the identical jammyness in step with its aromas: vibrant stone fruits within the type of jam and cooked fruit, besides right here there are added dimensions of candy grapes and ripened peaches that come throughout as an ester-heavy fruit bomb. Beneath this lush layer of fruit jam, there’s a maltiness of flaked oats.

The feel doesn’t let up within the end! It continues to keep up its heft and physique, not even remotely breaking up. Because it recedes, the fruit jam continues, whereas the peaches and grapes start to fade, changed by a deep oaky word with a lightweight acidity that retains it crisp.


This was a wonderfully crafted whisky; intense, wealthy, fruity and rounded, with nice textures, heft, size and warmth. The truth is, it’s so rounded that you simply wouldn’t have guessed that it is just 21 months outdated. Nowhere are the off notes, hotness, or thinness indicative of youth to be discovered. That stated, the depth might nonetheless use some mellowing, which makes me excited to strive the final of the inaugural trio, the Eagle.

Rating: 7/10

Taking into consideration Malt’s official scoring metrics, we’ve to contemplate that for its age and small quantity it is a expensive expression, particularly after factoring in Korean manufacturing prices. But it isn’t every single day that I get to be impressed by a “New World” single malt. At the least this hasn’t gotten outdated for me but.



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