Not many people read stuff online, they tend to scan and skip so let’s cut to the chase and keep this article short and to the point without the waffle.
You’re on this page as you are probably interested in baijiu, right?
Westerners that drink baijiu for the first time often experience one, uniform reaction – “seriously? This is the national drink of China?”
Baijiu can certainly be an acquired taste. Once the palate adapts, it becomes clear why this is such a celebrated spirit in its home nation. All the same, you’d be forgiven for scratching your head as to why baijiu is so overwhelmingly popular in China.
In reality, there is not one single reason why baijiu has risen to such a prominent station in China. Rather, there are four core explanations. To understand these will provide insight into Chinese culture and understand the importance of baijiu.
Does baijiu have a shelf life? Can it still be drunk after 100 years?
Theoretically, a high ABV baijiu won’t go bad. Baijiu that hasn’t been opened and stored correctly will last indefinitely. Let’s look at this in-depth below.
Baijiu is more than just a spirit in China. For many, it’s a way of life. Collections of rare and aged baijiu are considered national treasures, often changing hands for substantial sums of money at auction or among private collectors.
This begs a question, though – is aged baijiu simply for decoration, or can this infamous spirit be enjoyed at any age? Is baijiu truly for life, or does the spirit expire after a set period?
Happily, aged baijiu never loses its lustre. This why brands such as V.I.P Jiu 8, constructed from recipes that date back centuries, can retain their quality for many years, even decades. Baijiu can be stored for as long as you wish, provided you take the appropriate precautions.
China has long been associated with alcohol. Ancient Chinese cultures associated intoxication with spirituality, often imbibing alcohol as a means to commune with the dead. Naturally, there has always been a recreational element to the consumption of baijiu too, alongside mythology. The legendary Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai is claimed to have sold a priceless mink vest on his deathbed so he could enjoy one final taste of his favourite baijiu.
Overall, however, it’s modern China that is associated with alcohol consumption. In the 21st Century, there is a baijiu bottle for every budget in China. While diplomats and government officials enjoy the finest spirits available, usually the celebrated Kweichow Moutai. Low-paid construction workers will often be found enjoying a more wallet-friendly alternative.
Further Reading: Kweichow Moutai Baijiu – VS – V.I.P Jiu 8 Baijiu
Bottles of baijiu, the famous fiery national drink of China, are increasingly being spotted in trendy bars and restaurants throughout the Western world.
But despite a spike in popularity for the liquor, which in its home country annually outsells combined global sales of whisky, vodka, gin and tequila, newly converted drinkers are being warned that their next bottle of baijiu might not be what it seems.
That’s because criminals have spotted an opportunity to turn a fast profit by watering down expensive bottles of baijiu, or even substituting the entire contents of your bottle with nasty low-grade, industrial liquor.
For many alcohol enthusiasts, especially those based outside of China, Kweichow Moutai is the biggest name in baijiu. Thanks to government sponsorship, excellent branding and a stellar reputation, Kweichow Moutai Co. Ltd briefly became the largest business on the Chinese stock exchange earlier in 2020.
Despite this, rival distilleries are slowly and steadily making headway into a marketplace previously dominated by Moutai. Take Wuliangye Yibin Co. Ltd as an example. Based in the southwestern province of Sichuan, Wuliangye expanded their business operations in the first quarter of 2020.
The aim of this was to venture an initial financial hit with longer-term progress and profit. It appears that the gamble has paid off. The growth of Wuliangye Yibin Co. Ltd surpassed that of Kweichow Moutai Co. Ltd for the first half of the year.
The biggest impact was on net profits, as Wuliangye are already seeing a return on their investment. Profit has increased to the tune of CNY10.9 billion. That’s roughly £GBP 1.2billion. While this is a slower growth than during the same period in 2019 – 16%, as opposed to 33% – these remain hugely impressive financial results. When we consider that the world has changed irrevocably in 2020, the climb is even more noteworthy.
Baijiu – the fiery national spirit of China – has an unenviable reputation as the most misunderstood alcoholic drink in the Western world. Although a huge seller in its native homeland (where consumption exceeds global sales of whisky, gin, vodka and tequila combined) nobody outside of China seems to really know what it is, how to pronounce it or most importantly how to drink it.
To try and understand this mysterious spirit from the Far East a little better let’s take a look at the top 5 baijiu myths.
1) Baijiu is the name of a Chinese spirit.
Well yes. And no. Baijiu – which literally means ‘white (clear) liquor’ in Mandarin and is pronounced ‘Bye-Joe’ in English – refers to not one but an entire family of distilled Chinese spirits. Baijiu can be divided up into four principle ‘aroma’ styles: strong aroma, light aroma, sauce aroma and rice aroma. These can smell and taste wildly different from one another.
2) Baijiu smells of old socks and tastes like drinking rotting fruit dipped in aftershave.
Celebrated US journalist Dan Rather once likened sipping baijiu to ‘drinking liquid razor blades’. With a hard-hitting alcoholic punch of between 30-65% it’s certainly not a drink for the faint-hearted. Many western drinkers unfamiliar with the umami smells and tastes in a lot of baijiu think it’s like drinking soy sauce and overripe fruit. Other baijiu, like V.I.P Jiu 8, have a much lighter, fresher mouthfeel.
Eric Tsang, is a 67-year-old Hong Kong actor, film director, producer, and television host who landed himself in the soup with reports of him allegedly selling counterfeit baijiu.
Some time back, the actor who is best known for his comedy roles took part in a sales stream, which was hosted on Douyin, a site similar to TikTok. The sales stream is like a Livestream where hosts and celebrity guests come together to endorse products, which the fans can buy during the session.
The Livestream with Tsang went on for around 4.5 hours and managed to get over 10 million viewers. Even though it was the first such sales stream for Eric he managed to sell 22 different types of alcohol, including beer, wine, baijiu, and many more. He also sold snacks, like, crayfish and duck neck, and total sales exceeded 13.5 million yuan (S$2.68 million).
If a business wants to make a splash in the global market, it needs to gain a stranglehold over the stock exchange. Kweichow Moutai Co. Ltd, the distillery behind China’s national spirit, knows that better than most. Having already ousted Diageo from the top of the tree as the world’s most valuable liquor manufacturer in 2017, Kweichow Moutai is now the biggest public company in China.
The popularity of Moutai appears not to have been impacted by Coronavirus, with the share sales increasing by 23% in 2020. This means that Kweichow Moutai Co. Ltd boasts a share value of some £205 billion. For comparison, the biggest bank in the nation – the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China – boasts a share value of ‘only’ £200 billion.
Coronavirus has had a significant impact on countless industries, but hospitality has arguably been hit hardest. Social distancing regulations have led to worldwide shutdowns of bars and hotels, which has naturally had a knock-on effect on the alcohol trade. Baijiu sales overseas were already struggling, and now it appears that India may stop consuming the spirit due to political differences with China.
India does not have a liquor to call their own. While baijiu is as synonymous with China as vodka is with Russia, the Indian market settles for replicating traditional European recipes. These spirits are referred to as Indian-made foreign liquor, aka IMFL. The distributor VBev India, however, brought Jiangxiaobai baijiu into the nation some seven months ago.
Whiskey is by far the most popular spirit in India, accounting for around 75% of liquor sales. Indian nationals were starting to develop a taste for baijiu, however. That’s according to Sumedh Singh Mandla, CEO of VBev India, who described the Chinese spirit as having a tropical taste comparable to pineapple.