|▲ OmyNara / CEO Lee Jong-ki|
(PowerKorea) Koreans made rice wine to pay a respect to ancestors in rituals for a long time. Historic records tell us that Koreans loved drinking, singing and dancing by enlivening their spirit with good liquors. Around 400 kinds of traditional liquors are recorded and the number would well surpass a thousand if included unrecorded. Many of these traditional liquors came to an end of their heyday during the Japanese colonial era remaining only the diluted alcohol Soju and milky rice wine Makkulee.
It is regretful unique Korean liquors being removed on the map of the world famous liquors such as Sake of Japan, Whisky of Scotland and Cognac of France for example. Many Koreans doubt whether Soju can be called traditional while Makkulee is widely enjoyed among ordinaries.
Nestled in Mungyeong, North Gyeongsan, OmyNara is a South Korean liquor maker who claims to be the nation’s first Korean whisky master blender. CEO Lee Jong-ki has devoted 40 years of his life to making liquors and is the one who first introduced sparkling omija wine in the nation. The scientific name of omija is schisandrae fructus. It is called maximowiczia typica in French meaning the very best taste.
Lee majored in agricultural chemistry at Seoul National University and worked for OB (Oriental Brewery). He moved to Doosan Seagram during which he studied whisky at Heriot-Watt University Scotland. An event occurred that students were to gather together with a bottle of representative liquor of their country. Unable to think of one, Lee was discouraged. The discourage however made him determine to make a master Korean liquor that can stand shoulder to shoulder with those worldly famous liquors one day.
Back in Korea, Lee started his try with domestically grown ingredients from 1993. After several years, he found omija as the right candidate as it has attractive color and flavor. He opened a brewery in Mungyeong in 2008 year and used authentic champagne making method to develop the world’s first omija sparkling wine Omy Rose. The follow-ups were the premium distilled liquor Goeundal (lovely moon) and Mungyeong Wind.
Goeundal is 52 percent alcohol by volume made with omija extract and by more than a year of fermentation and a Portugal charentes distiller. It is ripened in European oak barrels or traditional Mungyeong white porcelains. The liquor creates sweet cedar flavor and pleasantly bitter taste and a hint of white chocolate, fruit and herb.
Omy Rose takes more than 3 years of fermentation to create a deep and sweet taste. Lee does fermentation one more time in a bottle after the initial fermentation which makes the liquor unique in terms of its making method. The bottle rotates 360 degrees to filter sediments such as yeast to give clean finish.
Recently added liquor Yeon, on the other hand, is fermented in a tank followed by secondary fermentation in a high pressured tank and filtering. The pressure is capped at 6bar same as Champaign to create long lasting freshness yet deep flavor.
Interesting to say, the very location of OmyNara is the ruins of the Thousand Year Tavern. Still more interesting is that Lee is the one who developed the famous Korean whisky Windsor and Golden Blue.
The liquors of OmyNara swept three best prizes at the 2021 Korea Wine & Spirits Awards. Prior to this, the liquors were used as the banquet liquors at the 2021 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit and at the World Water Forum 2015.
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