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Traditional Liquors of Jeonju for New Year’s Gift

2018 is the year of golden dog in oriental lunar calendar. To express well-wishing for the new year, we often exchange gifts with our neighbors, relatives, and friends. Liquors are probably the most popular category of such gifts, especially given that Koreans are one of the most alcohol-loving peoples in the world. Whiskies have been popular for such gifts, but how about opting for traditional liquors of Jeonju? In today’s post, I’ll introduce three most famous local traditional liquors.


‘Lee Gang Ju’: One of three high-quality liquors from the Joseon Dynasty

Probably the most famous of the traditional liquors of Jeonju is ‘Lee Gang Ju.’ It’s been one of three high-quality liquors dating back several centuries into the Joseon Dynasty. ‘Lee Gang Ju’ is made from the specialties of the Honam Region that were presented to the king, such as the pear, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, honey and others. They are matured for at least a year before filtered.

One might take ‘Lee Gang Ju’ for a very strong liquor popular amongst heavy drinkers. However, in fact, ‘Lee Gang Ju’ is more of a medicine given its ingredients. According to Dongeuibogam, a ‘bible’ of Korean traditional medicine, the “pear protects lungs and kidneys, while the ginger warms up the body and helps digestion. The turmeric is effective for detoxing the liver, while cinnamon helps blood circulation. Lastly, honey energizes and harmonizes different medicines, facilitating recovery.” In this respect, ‘Lee Gang Ju’ is more than an alcoholic beverage. If you care deeply for the gift-receiver, I recommend ‘Lee Gang Ju’ from Jeonju.


‘Du Ri Hyang’ from Jeonju Gayangju Company

The hottest traditional liquor these days in Korea is Jeonju Gayangju Company’s ‘Du Ri Hyang,’ which won the best prize for raw rice wine at the 2016 Korea Traditional Liquor Fair. ‘Du Ri Hyang’ is made from a kind of Korean ‘whisky,’ also known as ‘Seoktanju.’ Its name indicates ‘a liquor that is too valuable to gulp.’

‘Du Ri Hyang’ is made from distilling ‘Seoktanju’ and maturing it for more than a year in a clay pot. Unlike the Scotch Whiskies, ‘Du Ri Hyang’ is made from rice, instead of barley, and matured in a clay pot, instead of an oak cask. With 43% alcohol, ‘Du Ri Hyang’ is as strong as Scotch Whiskies, but its scent and texture are very neat. I recommend it for those looking for a strong liquor like whiskies.


Jeonju ‘Moju’ for those who don’t drink much

Jeonju ‘Moju’ is one of most popular souvenirs among visitors to the city, along with ‘Choco Pie’ from Poongnyun Bakery. ‘Moju’ is technically an alcoholic beverage, but it has only 1.5% alcohol. Also, its ingredients include a variety of herbs typically used for oriental medicine. Therefore, many people take ‘Moju’ for a medicinal drink rather than a liquor. The locals have long paired the local delicacy of Kongnamul Gukbap (bean sprouts soup with rice) with ‘Moju.’

‘Moju’ made from boiling rice wine with gingers, Chinese dates, licorice roots, ginseng, arrowroots, and others until almost all alcohol evaporates away. ‘Moju’ literally means ‘mother’s liquor.’ There are two theories about the origin of ‘Moju.’ It is said that ‘Moju’ was first made by the mother of King Gwanghaegun of the Joseon Dynasty. It is also said that the liquor is first made by a worrying mother who has a son that loves to drink too much. In both cases, ‘Moju’ started by a mother worried about her son’s health. Therefore, I believe ‘Moju’ is one of the best gift for those who care about health or don’t drink much.

In this post, I have dealt with the local traditional liquors that will make a great new year’s gift. I was sad to see that the traditional liquors, products requiring great efforts, weren’t as popular as liquors from overseas. So, how about trying Jeonju’s traditional liquors for gifts in 2018? I’m sure the giver and receiver will both be happy.


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