South Korea is known for its heavy drinking culture. Korea’s most famous alcoholic beverage is Soju which is Korean rice wine. Think of it as Vodka that is watered down to half its strength. It is only made in Korea and each region has its own particular favorite. Koreans drink Soju for any special occasion or social gathering. Pretty much if you go out to drink in Korea it will most likely involve Soju. This article will break down the best soju brands in Korea.
What many people don’t know is that Soju is not only the best-selling spirit in Korea but in the whole world and it is not even close. It doubles the sales of runner-up Smirnoff vodka. This is because Korea has a very heavy drinking culture. Soju is drunk at HOFs, restaurants, even in front of convenience stores. In addition, there are many ways to drink Soju. You can mix it with Korean beer, fruit juices, and even Sprite (Cider). When in Korea, drinking Soju is a must so it is important to know the top brands in Korea.
The ranking itself is not easy to do since most provinces have their own soju brand because back then the Korean government didn’t want excessive competition. In the 90s the laws were changed and companies were allowed to sell Soju anywhere but the effects of the bans are still felt to this day as many provinces still embrace the original “home town” brands. Our list takes into account sales, popularity, and overall taste. We also have an article on the best Korean hangover drinks for those looking to rebound after a long soju night.
Chamisul – Hite Jinro
This soju brand is the bestselling brand in all of Korea so it is hard to NOT place this Soju as #1. Chamisul is made from sweet potatoes and other starches. It’s most popular in Seoul but is shipped out all across Korea. It is made by Hite Jinro so there are a lot of brands. This brand comes in a few different types such as the Jinro original and the Jinro fresh. It has a clean, neutral taste that goes perfectly with Korean food/Korean snacks. It does have a slightly bitter taste compared to the others on this list. There are some more upscale lines from this brand that go down much smoother as well. Whatever type of Soju you need Jinro will have the one that is right for you.
If you are looking for a softer soju then try Chum Churum. Chum Churum means “like the first time”. The original Chum Churum is made from a mix of rice and grains. Korean females have taken a likely to this brand as well as younger drinkers who are not used to drinking strong alcohol. Chum Churum has a bit more flavor to it. It is made by Lotte Liquor and a few years ago they lowered Chum-Churum’s alcohol content from 19% to 18%. It is made of alkaline water, which makes soju become more distinct. This is why when you see the commercials you see Korean celebrities like Hyori shaking the soju.
GoodDay Soju is made using natural mineral water from Jirisan Mountain. Therefore it combines natural alkaline mineral water with lower alcohol content. What makes GoodDay Soju so popular in Korea is that it comes in many different fruit flavors. The most popular being Grapefruit, however, they offer other fruit flavors such as Pomegranate, grape, lemon just to name a few. It is very popular at Univeristies in Korea and is the favorite among many college students.
The #1 brand in Busan. This Soju claims to not give hangovers due to asparagine. C1 Blue is one of the most smoothest Soju’s out there. It is made by a process called SOVIA which stands for Sound Vibration Aging Process which is looked upon as the best aging technique for Soju. It also uses natural bedrock water which comes from Mount Samgak, Gijang. C1 Blue is starting to make some noise in the United States mainly in California, Hawaii, and Washington. C1 Blue got the grand-Prix in the diluted soju category at the 2015 Korea Alcoholic Beverage Awards as well as the Bronze Award at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC). It has a clean aftertaste and easy to swallow.
Also known as “Oxygen Soju”, this soju claims that a large amount of oxygen is dissolved in O2Linn than any other liquor or soju. It emphasizes an eco-friendly way of distilling the soju. This results in a much cleaner taste and less hangover. It is very popular among females and because of this, they came out with a spinoff product called Virginia which has a lower alcohol content. It comes from the province Daejeon and is a must-try!
Soju does not have to be cheap. Andong is a bit pricy but it is considered you get your money’s worth in regards to getting drunk. It is too strong for most Koreans and has a bit of a citrus taste. This particular soju is made of wheat along with rice and is fermented for 15 days. It has a very silky texture and is great for sipping with a meal. Do not take shots of Andong as you will get drunk very quickly. Andong is more popular outside of Korea and with the elderly. However, it is a Soju Brand that everyone should try at least once.
Alcohol: 22%- 45%