Makgeolli #14 – Jeju Gamgyool Makgeolli

KOREAN NAME: 제주 감귤 막걸리

REVIEW:  There’s something ironically amusing about kitschy souvenirs, and while it is probably a bad idea to give edibles a pass based on the same logic, I was intrigued by Jeju Gamgyool Makgeolli. With the label featuring pictures of glowing oranges and the cryptic phrase “Only Jeju Island”, this bottle practically screams, “BUY ME, TOURISTS!” The icing on the cake – the Korean, Chinese, and Japanese flags are displayed prominently with the explanation that Jeju Gamgyool Makgeolli was the drink of the “Korea, China, and Japan Summit Official State Dinner” (한중일 정상회의 공식만찬주). In the face of all this, how could I resist grabbing a bottle?

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I’d been fleeced. First of all, the claim that this makgeolli is made with 100% Jeju citrus (제주 감귤) is only true in the loosest possible interpretation: Jeju Gamgyool is made with 100% Jeju citrus concentrate which only happens to be .76% of the entire makgeolli. More damning is the fact that it is actually made in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi-do – a town that is 491 km (305 mi) away. Woorisool Brewery, the producer, doesn’t even list Jeju Gamgyool as one of their products on their website.

You can understand why I opened this bottle with low expectations. The weird, sourdough bread smell didn’t make me feel any better about things. But, after all this, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The first sip is a bit of a shock but it slowly, steadily grew on me. The citrus flavor is very mellow, adding a new element to the natural makgeolli flavor and yet partially masks the aspartame. It’s true that it could be more carbonated and less sweet, but it is decent for being the makgeolli equivalent of a tourist trap. You might try it if you’re in Jeju and/or you like fruit-infused makgeollis.

Carbonation: None.

Body: Watery with a light orange tint.

Smell: The smell is probably the most off-putting aspect of Jeju Gamgyool. While not terribly strong, it is uncannily like sourdough bread. At first sniff, I was actually worried the bottle had gone off.

SCORE: 4/7

BREWERY: Woorisool (우리술)

WEBSITE: www.woorisool.kr

ORIGIN: Gyeonggi-do, Gapyeong-gun (경기도, 가평군)

PURCHASED: Jeju Island, Jeju (제주도, 제주시)

AVAILABILITY: Obviously Woorisool is explicitly marketing this makgeolli to sell in Jeju. Still, I wonder if you could get it in Gapyeong…

ALCOHOL CONTENT: 6%

INGREDIENTS: purified water, imported rice, rice koji, Jeju citrus concentrate (.76%), 효모 yeast, purified enzymes, aspartame, acesulfame potassium

VOLUME: 750 ml

PASTEURIZED: Yes

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