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Gin Reviews

Tasting Four Buja Gins: Buja Gin, Omija Gin, Oak Aged Gin, Doongulae Gin

"My father is the expert on botanicals, while I specialise in bringing out the flavour profiles in gins. This makes for interesting conversation at the dinner table. On one occasion, I jokingly suggested creating kimchi-flavoured gin, and my father simply handed me a note on the spot with a list of the botanicals to use." - Buja Gin founder Tom Cho on collaborating with his father PY Cho to create Korea's first craft gin brand

Buja Gin is Korea's first ever craft gin brand, founded by the father son duo PY and Tom Cho. The latter was an avid drinker during his time as a commodities trader, but realised on his trips to bars that there wasn't any Korean gins active in the bar scene. On a trip home where his father ran an organic botanical farm in Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi-do, he realised that the over 60 organic botanicals farmed by his father would make excellent candidates for creating a gin that would embody a distinctively South Korean flavour and profile. 

With his father's organic farm as a treasure trove of regional botanicals to pick him, Tom set out learning to distill Buja Gin with a focus on using seasonal regional ingredients. Today, Buja Gin not only sources botanicals for its various gin expression from PY Cho's farms, but also from other local farmers - in a realisation of Tom's earlier vision to support the local economies through his brand.

Today, Buja Gin distills a range of different expression - with the original being the signature Buja Gin, made from 15 botanicals including Hallabong (an oblong citrus fruit from Jeju Island) and Mugwort (a ubiquitous Korean herb used in both soups and cakes alike). Other special releases include the Buja Omija Gin, made from omija berries, a special Korean berry that uniquely carries all five flavours of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and pungency! As well as the Buja Doongulae Gin, made with doongulae, a local root based plant that imparts a nutty taste to the finish. Adding to the range is also a special Oak Aged Buja Gin.

Each of these expressions are now available in Singapore, imported and distributed exclusively by Coolpotions Singapore. So today, we're going to taste test all four Buja Gin expressions, and see how each stacks up! 

Batch #0001 Signature Buja Gin | 부자진 - Tasting Notes 

Nose: Strong, obvious presence of pine from the juniper. However, it isn't heady or intoxicating, with a semblance of freshness and sweetness to cut the resinous aromas. There's a very gentle, floaty, young grass and citrus scent that reminds me of pomelo rind and pith. On the back, there's a soaked wolfberry aroma as well.

Palate: A strong sweet flavour yet midily bitter that reminds me of a juicy, ripe pomelo. Towards the middle, I get a powdery astringency that feels akin to mugwort infused desserts or a concentrated grass jelly.

Finish: The perfume of flowers really linger in the mouth. A deep, herbaceous candied ginseng flavour persists with the refreshing somewhat-juniper flavour as an accompaniment.

Overall Thoughts  

This feels like meeting an affable acquaintance - not like a stranger, but an interesting fellow that catches your curious attention. It's enough of a change of scenery to that brings about a pleasant sense of discovery.

I did find that it was juuust a tad sweet, and may need some balancing out with a complex-ish sour component that works with the traditional medicine like profile. 

Batch #0002 Buja Gin Omija Gin | 부자진 오미자 진- Tasting Notes

Aroma: Fresh pine juniper, with a friendly mellowness on the nose and a creamy aroma that's floral, perfumery with notes of frangipani and sweet accents of goji berries.

Taste: This starts off strongly spiced with coriander, star anise and a undertone of medicinal rootiness. It's quite sweet in a way that reminds me of sour plums. The spiciness then transforms into a woody note - of cedar and spicy young ginseng.

Finish: The spiciness on the palate settles into a gentle warm on the finish, and notes of spearmint are detectable here, blending with a lingering sweetness of dried goji berries.

Overall Thoughts

I liked that this gin takes you on a nice journey from nose to finish, moving from a sharp spiciness to a deep oakiness before settling into a subtle warmth. I think this would work really well with a tonic, allowing the spiciness goes down and the berry notes to grow much stronger and more prominent.

Batch #0004 Buja Gin Oak Aged Gin | 부자진  오크 숙성 진 - Tasting Notes

Nose: There's some bright herbal juniper notes, but curiously, the nose is accented by mildy plasticine PlayDoh-esque note, pine shavings and sweetness of sarsaparilla and syrup.

Taste: The texture of this gin is quite well-rounded, and you can immediately detect in a side-by-side tasting how the influence of the oak mellows down the usual spiciness and dims some pungency. There's a complex medley of flavors here: I detect deeper notes of leather and pine, some woodiness, nutty almond shavings and a mild sweetness of sarsaparilla. 

Finish: A mild heat lingers, with notes of woodiness and dried berries.

Overall Thoughts: 

Sweet and spicy in an enjoyable way! This time, the oak does a good job of mellowing the spiciness down, and also yielded some interesting flavor accents such as a curious sarsaparilla note that's usually more common in tropical rums than in gins! 

Batch #0007 Doongulae Gin | 부자진 둥굴레 진- Tasting Notes 

Aroma: Very smooth and inviting, with a slight starchiness akin to tapioca. There's some almond nuttiness, roasted barley, and floral chamomile notes. I also detect a very subtle incense smokiness.

Taste: Spiciness of peppers and ginseng root meld with some tannic notes of green tea leaves, almond shavings. There's also a subtle touch of honey and vanilla that morphs with the nuttiness apparent on the palate to remind me of a rich almond marzipan.  

Finish: There's a long spicy heft that lingers in the finish. This spice begins as a menthol note that reminds me of Hacks candy, and ends with a mild hotness resembling sliced ginseng and peppercorn. 

Overall Thoughts:

Another demonstration of that trademark spiciness that I've come to notice with Buja Gins! But this time with made even more enjoyable and distinctive with a nice nuttiness that balances the spice and lighter juniper herbaceousness, giving it a good backbone! I liked this one quite a bit, and would recommend this for sipping.  

Final Observations!

I seemed to have gone in reverse order with my tasting sequence here, because if I had to rank my preference, I found myself enjoying the Doongulae Gin the most, followed by the Oak Aged Gin, before the Signature Buja Gin and Omija Gin in equal standing!

What I do notice as a common thread amongst all Buja Gin expressions is a signature spiciness that likely comes from the use of regional herbs and spices native to Korea, evoking a unique heat in the gin that's quite distinctive. There's also a tad bit of sweetness that run throughout the range, though I found that the Doongulae and Oak Aged gins balanced out the sweetness better with added nuttiness and depth. I'd definitely be reserving those for sipping. That said, the Signature Buja Gin and Omija Gin would definitely stand up well in a tonic, allowing some of that spiciness to mellow out while still giving enough kick and character to spice up your G&T!  

Coolpotions is the exclusive importer and distributor of Buja Gins in Singapore. 


Happy sipping!