KOREAN NAME: 술아 순곡주 (겨울)
REVIEW: From an outsider’s perspective, Soolawon does everything possible to set their brews apart from other premium sool producers. Yes, they make makgeolli and cheongju and they also attend the big events but that’s about where the comparisons stop. Soolawon, from website to product, takes great care to craft a refined, stylish, and, most importantly, feminine image.
The bottle for Soongokju and the other cheongju in their “season line” all come in slender bottles, each with a different pastel-colored label featuring floral imagery. This is not a bottle for sitting on a stoop and swilling from paper cups but a tipple that dictates you drink it in a champagne flute or sherry glass with pinky extended.
And you would want Soongokju in a very small glass as it is eye-bulgingly sweet. It says a lot about the spring, summer, and fall cheongjus in the same line that, when I asked for the driest cheongju, this was the one recommended. Soongokju, the winter brew, may very well be Korea’s answer to Gewürztraminer, which makes me think I can’t begin to compare the sweetness of the other three brews. That being said, it’s a far cry from the jaw-clenching sweetness found in the aspartame brews that shall not be named. Soolawon makes an elegant product with high-end ingredients.
When you strip away the sweetness, you get a buttery flavor: definitely the butterscotch aroma coming through here. Beyond that, the only discernible flavor is something a bit oaky, probably due to the alcohol content.
And this may be the reason the fine people at Soolawon call this cheognju “dry”. Unlike the 15% ABV of the other three brews, the distilled spirits added to Soongokju tork it up to a 20% ABV. I guess you need the extra alcohol to make it through the blustery winter months in South Korea. Anyway, you’d never know this brew is so boozy: this cheongju goes down smooth as smooth if you are not one to get hung up on the sweetness.
I can’t make a full-throated recommendation for Soongokju—or any of their other cheongjus for that matter—but if you’re looking for the Korean version of a digestif or just have an insatiable booze-flavored sweet tooth, you don’t need to look further than Soolawon.
Appearance: Translucent, pale yellow.
Smell: Butterscotch, rich, extremely sweet.
Body: Delicate and smooth.
RATING: Conditionally Recommended
BREWERY: Soolawon (술아원)
ORIGIN: Gyeonggi-do, Yeoju (경기도, 여주시)
PURCHASED: Ordered via phone.
AVAILABILITY: You can order a bottle via their website for ₩18,000 before tax and shipping. Alternatively, you can order over the phone: 070.8776.0007.
ALCOHOL CONTENT: 20%
INGREDIENTS: 100% glutinous rice, nuruk, 72% distilled spirits, purified water
VOLUME: 375 ml
PASTEURIZED: No (Shelf-life 6 months)