This soju comes out smelling like roses

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This soju comes out smelling like roses

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The image that will appear on Bohae Brewery’s new bottle of soju that is scented with rose extract. [BOHAE BREWERY]

Bohae Brewery is hoping to shake things up on the flavored soju market with its newest product: flower-scented liquor.

The domestic soju maker started production this week of a new product, which reportedly has the scent of a rose. It was created in collaboration with the International Flavors & Fragrances, a global manufacturer that supplies perfume concentrates for Bulgari and Calvin Klein. The name and release date of the product are undecided.

Developers started working on the liquor one year ago, when researchers came up with the idea for rose soju on a business trip last year. After sampling whiskey from Japan and Spain, the researchers discovered that a good scent was the answer to why the liquor has a softer taste and is easier to swallow despite its high alcohol content. After returning to Korea, the company formed the “R Project” team to develop flavored liquor that added rose scents to its soju base.

What made the development difficult was deciding the amount of rose extract that would be used per bottle. The rose extract itself was expensive: It had to be imported from France and the essence itself required 3,500 kilograms of roses (7,716 pounds) to get 1 kilogram of extract. As the slightest amount of extract could change the degree of the scent, the team conducted numerous tests to find out the right amount to be included in the product.

“Although the production cost was high [compared to other soju products], we decided to release it in a similar price range with regular soju, considering it’s the first time for a flower-scented soju to be introduced in the market,” said a spokesman for Bohae Brewery.

Soju is Korea’s most popular alcoholic beverage and its earliest records are traced to as early as the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). In its basic form, soju is clear in color and is known for its distinctive bitterness.

The trend started to change as soju manufacturers released liquor products mixed with fruity flavor or soda water. Lotte Liquor started a trend with Soonhari, which was introduced in March 2015. The citron-flavored alcohol created a boom in the market, selling more than 40 million bottles in the first 100 days. Before, fruit-flavored soju was not available as a ready-made product, but as a mixture of fruit syrup and soju made independently by privately-owned bars.

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Its success prompted other soju manufacturers to release similar products, which created a market of fruit-flavored soju with a slightly lower alcohol content of 13 to 16 percent compared to regular soju, whose alcohol content is more than 17 percent.

There are now more than 20 fruit-flavored types of soju sold on the market in flavors like citron, peach, apple, grapefruit and pomegranate. Lotte Liquor’s Soonhari, Muhak’s Joeun Day and Hite Jinro’s Chamisul are the three top brands.

Soda-flavored soju kicked off a new trend in the alcohol market with the release of Bohae’s Brother Soda in September 2015. They were followed by Hite Jinro’s Isul Tok Tok, Lotte Liquor’s Soonhari Soda Tok and Muhak’s Tropical Tok Soda. Isul Tok Tok saw a huge success, selling 20 million bottles in the first four months since its March release.

“The younger generation and women didn’t have much preference for soju because of its bitterness,” said a spokesman for Lotte Liquor. “The new liquor trend seems to have attracted them as fruit-flavored liquor is not overly expensive than soju and better in taste and scent.”

The quantity of soju production, including fruit-flavored liquor, rose 0.4 percent year on year to 581,563 kiloliters, according to the National Statistical Office. The growth was calculated between January and May. “The soju market seems to have expanded at large, now that the success of various liquors based on soju has extended for over a year now,” said an industry insider.


BY JANG JOO-YOUNG [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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