Soju (or shochu) is a traditional Korean distilled spirit that can be rather hard to find in the United States. However, that may soon change thanks to the release of TY KU Soju, which is now being imported by the same company who recently released, sake-based TY KU Liqueur.
TY KU Soju is an interesting taste and while the spirit is typically compared to vodka, there is a slight element to this soju that is decidedly different, though it can easily replace vodka in cocktails.
Also, this particular soju breaks from a couple of the traditional soju characteristics.
TY KU Soju vs. Vodka
The two distinctions between TY KU and other sojus are the facts that it is distilled from barley and done so in Japan, not Korea. The reason for the barley likely has something to do with the shift from using rice to grains that occurred during a 1960's shortage of rice (read more about traditional soju), during which more soju producers turned to the alternatives.
I am not entirely familiar with a variety of sojus and so my best comparison is to vodka. The barley is very noticeable in TY KU Soju and this profile gives it a flavor that is typically absent in vodkas. It is an interesting taste that is more like sake, but the higher alcohol volume makes this soju stronger yet not as strong as vodka.
In the same fashion as vodka, this soju is also triple distilled (though in a pot still) and I am led to believe that this makes it softer than single distilled sojus.
Those who are soju traditionalists may find this lightness unappealing. The use of white kōji also gives this soju a sweeter characteristic.
Drinking TY KU Soju
TY KU Soju is certainly a good alternative to vodka and can be used as a substitute in your favorite vodka cocktails. There is, however, a growing interest in soju-based cocktails because it has the ability that vodka doesn't to enhance fruits and other natural ingredients' by absorbing the flavors into the spirit.
Chocolate is another of those flavors and the Gel-TY Pleasure and Winter's First Frost are two cocktails that prove this point. Unlike sake, if you are going to drink this straight, it is best chilled.
Yet another factor that makes TY KU Soju interesting to modern drinkers is that it contains nearly half of the calories of most vodkas. According to a study by Warren Analytical Laboratories (and provided by TY KU), this soju has just 68 calories per shot while Grey Goose has 115 and Absolut Citrus has 124. This does make your cocktails a touch healthier for you so when you put that aspect together with its unique taste, it is worth trying.
TY KU Soju holds a sweet, floral fragrance that leads to a smooth, clean flavor with nearly indistinguishable citrus and floral notes. The finish is as clean as sake and dry.
About TY KU Soju
- Japanese distilled spirit produced from barley and natural spring water that is distilled three times and cold filtered.
- Imported and bottled by TY KU Asian Wine & SpiritsTY KU Asian Wine & Spirits
- 24% alc/volume (48 proof)
- Retails for around $33/750ml bottle
- Contains no sweeteners, preservatives or additives.
- 68 calories per 1 1/2 ounces
- Received the Five Star Diamond Award and was a Medal Winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition