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Regional Differences in Baijiu Style and Production

Baijiu Production in Relation to Other Spirits

IMG_3137I spent last week in China learning about baijiu, the world's top-selling spirit, with the brand Ming River Baijiu produced at the Luzhou Laojiao in Luzhou. 

Americans and other non-Chinese drinkers tend to view baijiu as a completely foreign spirit, indescribable in relation to other spirits except to say that it's strong and stinky. Well I'm here to tell you that though it is quite different, there are plenty of parallels to other spirits. 

Baijiu Is: 

Made from fermented and distilled grains, like whiskey. [in baijiu the top grains are sorghum and rice, though corn, barley, wheat, and other grains are used]

Saccharified (complex carbohydrates of the grain broken down into simpler, fermentable sugars) with mold, like sake. [in baijiu the mold is mixed up with yeast and bacteria in bricks called qu so that saccharification and fermentation take place at the same time]

Fermented as a solid mass rather than a liquid, like grappa. [in strong aroma baijiu, steamed grains are buried in a pit with qu for several months to ferment]

Fermented with some of the remainders of the previous distillation (stillage), like sour mash whiskey or Jamaican rum that uses muck pits. This was tremendously exciting to learn. [in baijiu rather than stillage added to just the next batch of fermentation, most of the previous batch is refermented and redistilled with a small portion of new grains]

Usually distilled in pot stills, like many spirits. [some rice aroma baijius are apparently distilled in continuous stills]

Aged in ceramic vessels, like traditional pisco and some wines. [the vessels are non-reactive but breathable, so they allow for oxidation but probably do not impart any of their own flavor to the spirit like wood barrels do]

Blended between batches of different distillations and ages after aging to create the specific brand, like most spirits that are barrel-aged. [in baijiu, a single fermentation pit is divided into different small distillations and these are aged separately]

See, totally relatable. 

I'll have a lot more baijiu content going forward, but this is a start. 



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Baijiu lover

Is this Derek Sandhaus writing or..? ;)

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