KOREAN NAME: 지리산 국화주
REVIEW: Curious bottles that I’ve never seen before make me both excited and circumspect. And more often than not, my hesitancy is confirmed with a bad bottle. Jirisan Gookhwaju isn’t bad, per se, but it is firmly in the camp of weird Korean booze that you would drink on a dare rather than for pleasure.
To be honest, I could already tell by the jumble of a label: the picture of a golfer in full swing; some vaguely heraldic-looking shields; and the words “Presidential Wine of Korea” not too far from some gold labeling proclaiming “RAMSAR” (whatever that is). Oh, and don’t forget, Jirisan Gookhwaju has been in production “since 1987”. Uh-huh…
Anyway, the first sip is tart like a nice cheongju but, rather than mellowing into something soft or sweet, it persists with a cutting tartness. The finish is wheaty like this yakju’s scent would suggest, and faintly bitter. Fortunately, the oaky aftertaste is mild and fades quickly.
The best compliment I can give Jirisan Gookhwaju is a back-handed one: I’ve tried many yakjus that are far worse.
Body: Translucent yellow coloring with a light, acidic body.
Smell: Dry, acidic, wheaty.
BREWERY: Jirisan Gookhwaju (지리산 국화주)
ORIGIN: Gyeongsang-do, Hamyang-gun (경상남도, 함양근)
PURCHASED: Seoul, Myeongdong, Lotte Department Store (서울, 명동, 롯대)
Retail is approximately ₩8,000.
AVAILABILITY: I have not seen this bottle anywhere but this specific Lotte Department Store.
ALCOHOL CONTENT: 16%
VOLUME: 360 ml
PASTEURIZED: Yes (2-year shelf life)