Origin of Munbaeju
A royal wine in the era of King Taejo of Goryeo
Serving premium drinks to one’s ancestors, elders and many others is a popular tradition in both oriental and western cultures. Munbaeju was also developed in the midst of this tradition. During the reign of King Taejo of Goryeo, subjects competed with one another to offer the king premium liquors in return for government posts. One of the spirits at the time was Munbaeju from a particular family. The family kept the brewing method in secret and served Munbaeju to the king alone. However, by the mid-Goryeo Dynasty, its brewing techniques became known to many descendants and were widely spread among the people as a popularly practiced method.
An incomplete, unconcluded poem due to a shortage of Munbaeju
Kim Gi-won was a pretty famous poet in the mid-Goryeo Dynasty. One day, he had a good time writing poems about Munbaeju with his acquaintances at Yeongwangjeong Pavilion along the Daedonggang River. Adding amusement while drinking Munbaeju, he wrote a poem saying: “Endless mountains mark eastern Daedonggang River, and the river flows lazily to along the fortress.” He then paused and commanded a kisaeng (female entertainer during the old times) sitting next to him to pour him a cup of Munbaeju. But due to such a great taste of the liquor, poets and painters present with Kim Gi-won all quickly drank Munbaeju to empty the barrel. Having nothing to drink, he grumbled and threw his brush. This is why his poem forever remained incomplete without the concluding remarks.
Characteristics of Munbaeju
There is a saying, “The most important feature of a liquor is its taste, and the core of its taste is its aroma.”Munbaeju is known to have the best aroma among all Korean liquors. The name comes from the aroma of Korean indigenous munbae, or wild pears. Korean wild pears boast of refreshing taste and unique scent compared to ordinary pears. And Munbaeju, despite the fact that it is brewed only by yeast and grain, offers the fresh scent of wild pears. Due to the high alcohol content, it can be stored for a long period of time. When taking a sip, its refreshing yet thick aroma gently surrounds the tongue with a rich aftertaste. In 1986, Munbaeju was designated as National Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 86-1, and was offered as South Korea’s official liquor during the inter-Korean summit held in 2000.
- Moonbaesool (http://www.moonbaesool.co.kr)