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Hyangonju, the Korean Royal Court Liquor

Exploring Korean Traditional Royal Court Liquor, Hyangonju : A Journey into Intangible Cultural Heritage

As the refreshing spring breeze of April sweeps through the air, delve into the world of Hyangonju, a celebration of Korean Traditional Royal Court Liquor, offering a myriad of cultural heritage events that embody our rich intangible heritage.

Hyangonju, the Korean Royal Court Liquor

The Essence of Tradition: Seoul’s Cultural Events

Experience the Taste of Royal Court Liquor, 향온주(Hyang-on-ju)

A tasting event for ‘Hyangonju’, a traditional royal liquor made from non-glutinous rice and glutinous rice, made at ‘Yangonseo’, a government office in charge of alcohol and amazake during the Joseon Dynasty, will be held from noon to 3pm on the 6th (Sat) at the Seoul Intangible Cultural Heritage Donhwamun Education Exhibition Center.

It will be held at (13 Yulgok-ro 10-gil, Jongno-gu). Until the 27th (Saturday), you can see an exhibition of the materials, tools, and bottles needed to brew Hyangonju malt and make alcohol.

The recipe for making Hyangonju can be found in the Joseon Dynasty literature, 『Gosachalyo』 and 『Gyugonsiuibang』. When making Hyangonju, it was made under the supervision of royal doctors and according to the prescriptions of the royal doctors, and it is said that the king gave it to his subjects as it was a precious liquor. The method of making yeast is special by mixing and grinding mung beans, barley, and wheat.

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Introduction to Hyangonju, the Royal Court Liquor

Hyangonju, a traditional Korean liquor, boasts a rich heritage and distinct flavors. Let’s delve into its origins, brewing techniques, and cultural significance.

Etymology and Historical Significance

Meaning of Hyangonju

In Korean, Hyangonju derives from the liquor enjoyed by kings, reflecting its royal associations.

Origin and historical background

Hyangonju, also known as ‘내국법온,’ was traditionally brewed under strict supervision, often enjoyed by royalty and nobility. Its origins trace back to the brewing practices of the Joseon Dynasty.

Unique Characteristics of Hyangonju

Ingredients and fermentation process

Unlike conventional liquors, Hyangonju undergoes fermentation using a special type of nuruk called Hyangonju, which includes a blend of mapssal (brown rice), chapssal (glutinous rice), barley, and nokdu (mung beans).

Special type of nuruk: Hyangonju

The key to its unique aroma and flavor lies in the fermentation process, where the special nuruk, 향온곡, plays a crucial role. This blend of ingredients results in a distinctively rich and smooth taste.

Hyangonju, the Korean Royal Court Liquor

Traditional Brewing Method

Recipe from “규곤시의 방”(Gyugonsiuibang)

Historical texts, such as “규곤시의 방,” detail the traditional brewing method of Hyangonju. It involves a meticulous process of preparing ingredients, fermenting, and refining the liquor.

Importance of ingredients and brewing technique

Each step of brewing requires careful attention to detail, from selecting high-quality grains to controlling fermentation temperatures. This meticulous approach ensures the integrity of the final product.

Preservation and Enhancement Methods

Challenges in preserving Hyangonju

Due to its unique composition, preserving the quality of Hyangonju presents challenges, particularly in maintaining its flavor and aroma over time.

Use of 엿기름(refined malt syrup) and refining techniques

To address these challenges, traditional methods utilize 엿기름 (refined malt syrup) and refining techniques to enhance the liquor’s stability and flavor profile.

Recognition as Cultural Heritage

Designation as Intangible Cultural Asset

In 1993, Hyangonju was designated as the 9th Intangible Cultural Asset by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, recognizing its cultural significance and historical importance.

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Historical figures and legacy

Hyangonju holds a prominent place in Korean history, with figures like 정해중 선생댁 playing a key role in its preservation and dissemination across generations.

Hyangonju, the Korean Royal Court Liquor

Contemporary Significance and Consumption

Availability and variations in modern markets

Today, consumers can find a variety of Hyangonju products in the market, each offering a unique interpretation of this traditional liquor. Its availability reflects its enduring popularity among enthusiasts.

Cultural significance and consumption trends

Despite its historical roots, Hyangonju continues to hold cultural significance in modern Korean society, often enjoyed during special occasions and gatherings, symbolizing tradition and heritage.

Hyangonju stands as a testament to Korea’s rich cultural heritage, embodying centuries of tradition and craftsmanship. Its distinctive flavors and historical significance make it a cherished part of Korean culture.