Soju Tasting

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From L to R: Jinro 24; Chamisul Original; Chamisul Fresh; Saan Soju; Chum-Churum; Chum-Churum “Feel~! so Cool”

It wasn’t my original intention to taste three sojus from Jinro (the first half of the lineup) and three from Lotte Liquor (the second half of the lineup), the two largest Korean soju producers.  I was just looking for different soju labels for sale at my local Korean market in Oakland, and those were the ones I found (all 375 mLs and $3.99 except for Jinro 24 ($4.79) and Saan Soju ($1.99)).

To be honest, I had a difficult time picking up any differences among the six labels. They all carried a kick from high alcohol content and were vaguely sweet. Literally blindfolded, there were only a few distinguishing qualities that I could tease out from each glass.

The first: the appropriately named JINRO 24 (24% v/v alc.) was recognizably hotter than the others. Coarse and rough, if forced to identify a masculine soju in this bunch (I know, how can a beverage be feminine or masculine? – but I can’t help it, I picked up this habit while describing wine), this one would be it.  According to the label, it is “made with grain neutral spirits, sugar and citric acid.”

Distilled from 60% grain, 20% sweet potato, and 20% tapioca and “spirits”, CHAMISUL ORIGINAL (20.1% v/v alc.) was my favorite.  It just tasted fresh and even.  In comparison, CHAMISUL FRESH (19.5% v/v alc.) felt ever so slightly flat.  On Jinro’s website, they claim to add a “natural sweetener from Finland” to the FRESH version – wonder what that sweetener is?  The contents label for FRESH was more ambiguous with “neutral spirits and spirits distilled from 50% rice and 50% barley”.  To me, the ORIGINAL was more fresh than the FRESH.

The sweet potato-based SAAN SOJU (21% v/v alc) had some green tea extract added to it (according to the label) though none was perceived (by color, taste or smell).

And finally, the CHUM-CHURUM with the plainly worded label (20% v/v alc.) was indistinguishable from the CHUM-CHURUM “Feel~! so Cool” with the flirty girl dominating the bottle (19.5% v/v alc.) despite the 0.5% v/v difference in alcohol.  They’re both made from sweet potatoes with sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

Since only two companies were covered here, this is only the beginning.  I’d love to compare other popular brands to those tasted today in addition to hopefully finding here in the U.S., soju made by smaller, lesser known companies.

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7 Responses to “Soju Tasting”

  1. Grace Says:

    This is awesome! Now I don’t have to try them all! You should mention that “CHUM-CHURUM” means “like the first time” 🙂

  2. Cooking in Mexico Says:

    Loved reading about your soju tasting. It brought back memories of our travels through S.Korea a number of years ago. We were guests at a banquet for elders (our graying hair must have prompted the invitation). Servers poured home brewed soju from large, metal kettles, making sure our glasses were never empty. It was a refreshing, effervescent drink, though potent after a few glassfuls.

    I’m glad I found your blog through chowhound.

    Kathleen

  3. Diane Says:

    Kathleen, thanks for sharing your travel memories with us! It sounds as though you and your friends were treated to some makkeolli, one of my favorite Korean alcoholic beverages.

  4. CHUM CHURUM! Says:

    CHUM CHURUM!

  5. idastravels Says:

    I have taken a liking to makgeolli after watching the romcom Marriage not Dating this summer. It is not so easy to get in NYC but I am having some success. I will be in Oakland in December. Where did you pickup up those lovely bottles? I will be interested in the ones that have no aspartame. Thanks, Ida

  6. Diane Says:

    Ida, I’m also a big fan of makgeolli! As for the bottles mentioned above, I got all of them from Koreana Plaza (2370 Telegraph Avenue) in Oakland. Thank you for reading the article!

  7. Jason Says:

    “CHUM-CHURUM “Feel~! so Cool” with the flirty girl dominating the bottle…”

    That “flirty girl” is Hyori. She’s fabulous.

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