CraftBros Brewery & Distillery: Korea's Third Whisky Distillery Is A Love Letter From The Heart Of A Spirits And Brew Lover
Look out South Korea, you've got a new craft whisky distillery coming right at you.
The past several years has seen the Korea spirits landscape change drastically - the country saw its first two whisky distilleries, Three Societies and Kim Chang Soo, both of whom have passed the rubicon of now releasing fairly regularly their own single malt, even if still limited in scale and obviously a touch on the younger side.
This is a worthy milestone for the country considering the major obstacle the local law poses to distillers who face prohibitively high taxes and production requirements, not to mention the operational complexity of being the firsts.
Yet, the country remains hopeful, having seen how much colour the craft beer scene has livened up to in the past two decades as similarly draconian laws relaxed in stages, and not without much drama! Ultimately those laws have largely fallen wayside for craft brewers, who today populate the country, producing an incredible variety of brews. Local distillers thus look to such possibilities with much hope that the same can be said for craft whisky distilling - that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Left to Right: Bryan Do (Three Societies), and Kim Chang Soo.
Nonetheless, despite the onerous regulations, it's not stopped the two distillers Bryan Do, helming Three Societies, and Kim Chang Soo, of his namesake distillery - both with incredible stories to tell.
Now it seems that a third distiller is ready to join the fray - enter CraftBros Brewery and Distillery.
CraftBros got its start as a craft beer brewery in 2014, having been established by Kang Ki-moon, who had been the editor for The Beer Post magazine in South Korea. He also later established a craft beer taphouse named Can Maker in Seorae, which offered amongst the widest variety of craft beers on tap, supplied by numerous local craft brewers besides his own.
Nonetheless CraftBros' own beers, and later their Makgeollis, have been a big hit, not just for their distinctive and striking packaging, often featuring local architecture or otherwise distinguished photographs from Life Magazine, but also for their incredible quality and flavours.
Since mid-2023, CraftBros began teasing hints about putting a new whisky distillery together, dropping photos and reels of the process, and also emphasising the development and use of local ingredients in ensuring a Korean craft whisky is produced.
This move from craft brewery to craft distillery is not unheard of, as Three Societies' Bryan Do shares a similar experience of having established the successful Hand & Malt craft brewery, which he later sold, and then moved on to pursue craft distilling at Three Societies.
Kim Chang Soo on the other hand has seen the majority of his career thus far in various functions surrounding whisky, from having gained some experience as a salesperson to running his own bar, and then famously cycling across the whole of Scotland, having asked for a job in every distillery, before being turned down. Fortuitously, a chance encounter on his Scotland trip ultimately led to his apprenticing at the legendary Chichibu Distillery in Japan. A couple of years later, he would successfully raise the funds needed to start his own distillery.
In a recent reel, it seems that the new CraftBros distillery has finally begun to fill its first casks.
While fans will have to wait several more years to taste the first whisky from CraftBros, one can hope for several work-in-progress releases, which, if judging by Three Societies' own early releases, might prove to be incredibly promising. After all, South Korea's intense weather and its patterns have demonstrated its ability to accelerate the ageing of its whiskies.
Yet, perhaps what is also fascinating with CraftBros is also its founder Kang Ki-moon's amazing show of camaraderie with his fellow brewers and distillers, often finding avenues to promote and push the scene forward in any capacity he has been able to do so.
(Left To Right): Three Societies' Bryan Do, Kim Chang Soo and CraftBros' Kang Ki-moon, meeting to discuss proposals to pushing for legislative change prohibiting South Korea's distilling.
Ultimately it seems that CraftBros Brewery & Distillery is a love letter to South Korea from the heart of a true brew and spirits lover.
We'll be watching with great excitement!