Diageo is targeting South Korea's soju drinkers with plans to launch a "premium distilled spirit" that it hopes will entice consumers away from the country's favourite liquor.

The UK drinks giant told just-drinks today (23 August) that it is test marketing the product and plans to unveil it in South Korea next month.

However, a Diageo Korea spokesman was keen to clarify local reports that the plans signalled the company's move into soju.

Production of soju, which is distilled mainly from rice, is regulated by the South Korean government and Diageo does not hold a licence to manufacture the spirit, the spokesman said.

The as yet unnamed product, which will also be distilled from rice, would not be in direct competition with soju, the spokesman added. However, he admitted that Diageo is hoping to attract the country's soju drinkers with its offering.

"Our product is a distilled spirit but we cannot call it soju because we do not have a soju production licence," the Diageo spokesman said from Seoul. "It's a premium distilled spirit (but) it might be seen by consumers as an alternative to soju."

The spokesman said that Diageo is trying to create a new, premium spirits category and would target top-end restaurants in South Korea. Diageo's product would be "filtered many times more" than regular soju products, he said, which would give the product a different flavour.

He added: "Soju is the most favourite drink for Koreans, especially for meal occasions but we still see room for other categories to come in. We want to utilise our know-how and expertise in distilling products here."

Local spirits giant Jinro leads the soju category with around 50% of the market. Rival distiller Doosan has reportedly doubled its share of the market to around 10% after cutting the abv of its soju product to attract more female drinkers.