They’ve made gins featuring rojak and chendol, liqueurs in kopi-o and teh-o variants, vodka using Southeast Asian spices, and now, Compendium has released (quietly, we might add, and on the back of a recent rebranding) Singapore’s very first soju.
Eschewing the fruity numbers from Korea that are widespread in the market, the flavour company has decided to go in a direction that is truer to their ethos, releasing their sojus in two unique varieties – ondeh ondeh and bandung.
Those familiar with Compendium’s spirits lineup will know that producing soju is a slight departure from their usual. It may be a distilled product, but it is one designed to be ready-to-drink and more accessible to the masses.
“They are an introduction to our company,” says Simon Zhao, founder of Compendium. “Consumers who may not know about our spirits yet can do so through these sojus. Being slightly sweeter and of lower ABV, we can reach out to entry level drinkers more easily.”
[Read more: Soju: What is it and why people love it]
Zhao, originally a Chinese national, was inspired by local dessert shops when deciding upon what flavours to infuse into his sojus. And he didn’t do it the same way commercial soju brands are doing so either, but rather, through actual distillation.
He explains: “Our flavours are distilled in. We go through the whole nine yards rather than just add flavouring extracts. And because we introduce the flavours differently, it results in a product that is not easily replicated.”
Another thing done differently from typical sojus is the base distillate used. Like Compendium’s other products, Zhao first ferments from a raw base ingredient. In this case, he’s using gula melaka as his base sugar to ferment. Most sojus (most distilleries, in fact) skip this step and simply process NGS (neutral grain spirits) bought from a supplier.
For his sojus, Zhao says a little bit of NGS is mixed in at the end (accounting for around one-third of the volume) so that it still carries grains and that familiar soju taste.
So how should you drink them? “It’s the occasions we’re looking at,” remarks Zhao. “Drink it at home gatherings with friends having fun, chilling and munching on chips. Some people even drink it with Yakult.”
“The best part is you won’t get a hangover the next day,” he proclaims proudly. “We’re not here to compete with the mass commercial brands but to provide an alternative. We have a very interesting food culture in Singapore and we want to showcase that. Singapore should have its own soju.”
When asked if we can drink the soju alongside barbeque dishes like they do in Korean dramas, Zhao adds that he would definitely recommend it. “Feel free to experiment,” he quips.
About the Author
Dannon Har is the Managing Editor of Spill. Discovering his innate gift for drinking only at a ripe age, he spares no time trying to find more delicious drops to imbibe during his time on Earth. When he’s not minding every detail at Spill, he spends his time concocting luscious libations and sharing them with folks that visit his home bar.