Fine Wine

Sulawon’s gwahwaju ages like fine wine

Sulawon, located in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, is a brewery specializing in crafting traditional rice wine using locally sourced rice. The brewery has gained acclaim for its signature ‘gwahwaju,’ Korea’s traditional summer spirit known for its remarkable aging potential, lasting for over a decade.

The driving force behind Sulawon is its CEO, Kang Jin-hee. Kang’s passion for traditional alcoholic beverages was ignited a decade ago during her studies at the Korea Institute for Traditional Homebrews. This enthusiasm led her to establish a distillery dedicated to a modern interpretation of gwahwaju, drawing inspiration from historical records such as the “Food and Beverage Reference” authored by Jang Gye-hyang (1598-1680), who lived during the Joseon dynasty under the reign of King Hyeonjong around 1670.

Sulawon’s flagship offering is the Gyeongseong Gwahwaju. In 1946, Korean historian Choi Nam-seon highlighted Joseon’s representative alcoholic beverages in his book “Joseon Common Sense Question and Answer.” These included Pyongyang Lingzhi spirits, Jeonju pear and ginger spirits, Jeolla region’s bamboo spirits, Geumchon Azalea wine, and Gyeongseong summer spirits. Kang expressed regret over the neglect of gwahwaju and decided to make it the centerpiece of Sulawon’s brand identity.

“Gwahwaju, translating to an alcoholic beverage that withstands summer, is not limited to the warmer months; it can be enjoyed year-round,” Kang explained. To showcase this versatility, she introduced Sula in stunning traditional multicolored paintwork patterns. Infused with scents capturing the essence of each season – apricot flower for spring, lotus for summer, chrysanthemum for autumn – and brewed with hard grain for winter, Sula embodies a celebration of the four seasons.

Given Yeoju’s historical significance as the burial site of King Sejong, Sulawon pays homage to its sweet potato soju. The 25% ABV variant is elegantly packaged in a blue-colored royal robe reminiscent of the attire King Sejong wore as a crown prince, while the 40% ABV version comes in a red-colored robe symbolizing his ascension to the throne.

Seung-Hoon Cheon

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