KOREAN NAME: 천비향 생주
REVIEW: Whereas your typical makgeolli is a danyangju (단양주), a makgeolli that has been fermented once, Cheonbihyang is an oyangju (오양주), meaning it has been fermented five times. Not only does this mean more rice goes into the brewing process, but there is also a longer wait time—factors that help to explain a higher price point for the brew (a bottle sells for about 20,000 won usually).
More importantly, the taste bears little resemblance to anything you’ve had in a plastic green bottle. The initial flavor is incredibly sugary and curiously like coconut. This abruptly shifts to something earthy and sour. And boozy: at 14% ABV, Cheonbihyang has some serious fire.
Joeunsul’s brew is certainly intriguing and worth trying, but I also feel it is not something that you could polish off in one sitting. It’s just too sugary and boozy for that. In this sense, it reminded me of port or a fancy liqueur—something that you’d have in your liquor cabinet for special occasions or a nice nightcap.
While it’s definitely not for everyone, I recommend Cheonbihyang if you want to branch out into a different part of the makgeolli world or if you’re just looking for something unique.
Smell: Cheonbihyang is very boozy with punches of bread, mustard, and sulfur. Which sounds like a bad thing but it’s not!
BREWERY: Joeunsul (좋은술)
ORIGIN: Gyeonggi-do, Uiwang (경기도, 의왕시)
AVAILABILITY: SOMOS Bar in Sinchon doesn’t usually carry this bottle but I was able to pick it up there at a free makgeolli-tasting party put on by Project ROK and cohosted by MMPK and the Makgeolli Makers at Susubori Academy.
If you’re looking for this bottle, I believe you can try it at Makgeolli Hakkyo near Isu Station. The other option is to buy Cheonbihyang directly from Joeunsul’s website.
ALCOHOL CONTENT: 14%
INGREDIENTS: Korean new rice (61%), purified water (38%), nuruk (1%)
VOLUME: 500 ml
PASTEURIZED: No (90-day shelf life)
OTHER FACTS: From the label: “Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners have not been added” (아스파탐 등 인공감미료 무첨가).