KOREAN NAME: 우곡주
REVIEW: I must have poor beginner’s luck. The first two Bae Hyejeong Doga Brewery (BHD) bottles I tried were execrable, while the last two—Horangi and now Ugok-ju—have been nothing short of delightful.
The BHD English website calls Ugok-ju “The absolute premium rice wine”. The fancy glass bottle and simple but classic design of the label certainly make it feel like something quality. And you notice it in the wallet too: the price tag (at least at Shinsegae Department Store) is ₩11,000. But, honestly, for something this good, I don’t mind and will definitely pick up another bottle next time I’m at Shinsegae.
Ugok-ju is creamy and rich, a by-product, according to the site, of not adding any extra water beyond what is created during fermentation. This means that a lot of sediment will build up in the glass, almost giving it a consistency similar to ihwaju. Almost. But Ugok-ju’s best-selling point is its balanced flavor profile: a slight sweetness up front, followed quickly by sour and bitter notes. And for those that aren’t crazy about in-your-face, boozy liquors, this brew has a surprisingly slight burn for its 13% ABV.
Two points to be aware of: 1) Ugok-ju is pasteurized so it lacks effervescence; and 2) glucoamylase is an ingredient. From what I understand, glucoamylase is an enzyme that helps to quickly break starches into sugars. Glucoamylase can be sourced from Aspergillus fungi, which makgeolli lovers will recognize as nuruk, or Aspergillus oryzae. That being said, it’s unclear where BHD sources their glucoamylase. You can read more about glucoamylase here and here.
Despite these caveats, I would highly recommend trying Ugok-ju. It’s refreshing to see makgeolli brewers taking to heart the practices put forward in something Takjoo Journals calls the Makgeolli Manifesto. And for makgeolli brewers out there, this is the first commercial product, in my opinion, that tastes even close to what you can make at home.
Body: Thick and creamy.
Smell: Rich and just a hint of a boozy-mustard note.
BREWERY: Bae Hyejeong Doga, or BHD (배혜정 도가)
Follow this link if you want to read BHD’s English description of Ugok-ju.
ORIGIN: Gyeonggi-do, Hwaseong (경기도, 화성시)
PURCHASED: Seoul, Express Bus Terminal, Shinsegae Department Store (서울, 고속 터미널, 신세계)
AVAILABILITY: It’s possible that some joomaks have this bottle. However, I don’t think I’ve seen it before my visit to Shinsegae.
ALCOHOL CONTENT: 13%
INGREDIENTS: Organic Gyeonggi-do rice (98.7%), purified water, leavened yeast (효모), nuruk yeast (곡), glucoamylase
VOLUME: 375 ml