Tucked away on the side streets of every major city in America is the little Asian liquor store, where a treasure trove of foreign liquors from across the world sits with unabashed mystique on dusty shelves. The contents and taste of these exotic bottles, to the average culture-less borderline xenophobe, are an utter enigma. So we decided to expand our palettes — all the way to Asia.
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In the spirit of adventure, we decided to pick five bottles of mystery liquor from China, Japan, and South Korea and record our findings with this blind taste test. Blind in the sense that some of this stuff might literally blind a person.
#5 Red Star Er Guo Tou Jiu - 56% ABV - 200 ML - $6.99 Er Guo Tou Jiu translates to "second distillation" and is a type of baijiu (which is, essentially, Chinese vodka). It's made from sorghum and takes six months to produce. This particular brand, Red Star, sits at 112 Proof. Fasten your seat belts.
This tasted like expired corn flakes and lighter fluid. It might be the stuff they used in old movies to wake someone up after they've fainted. This would strip the paint off wood and then turn the wood into jelly.
#4 Chamisul Soju - 20.1% ABV - 375 ML - $5.95 Soju literally translates to "burned liquor." It's a Korean beverage made with rice — though it's typically combined with other ingredients such as wheat, barley, or sweet potatoes. Why Psy is on the bottle and whether or not he had a hand in the distilling process is between the universe and Psy.
This soju tasted about as good as Psy's career in America was long. It was bone dry and burned the tongue. How could you let us down like this, Psy?! We trusted you! We trusted you, Psy!
#3 Bizen Maboroshi Junmai Ginjo - 16% ABV - 300 ML - $9.99 Ginjo refers to a specific style of sake that is fermented under cold temperatures for a long time. This process allows for a richer flavor and smoother texture.
This tasted like a very concentrated sake and was ultimately a little too much when consumed directly out of the bottle. It probably would have been better warmed up and mixed with something awesome like Mountain Dew Baja Blast.
#2 Rei Junmai Ginjo Draft - 15% ABV - 300 ML - $4.99 This sake is also fermented under low temperatures with a less robust and more balanced flavor than the previous bottle.
A very pleasant light, aromatic sake that would have been perfect if paired with a light fish dinner or a cool smoke. It smelled like perfume and went down easily... just like when you were a kid and used to drink your mom's.
#1 Gyeongju Beopju Ssal Makkoli - 6% ABV - 700 ML - $14.95 Makkoli or "Makgeolli" is made by fermenting a mixture of boiled rice, wheat, and water, which gives it an off-white color. This milky fermented rice wine has yeast, proteins, amino acids — and a lower alcohol level than other wines.
The alpha in the pack, the cock of the walk, the diamond in the rough. This milky, expired-looking jug of confusion was the most delicious in the brood. It tasted as if milk and champagne had been mixed together with hints of fruit. Smelled like a dumpster, though.