|Contents: 1) What Is Baijiu? 2) Baijiu History 3) How Is Baijiu Made? 4) Baijiu Ingredients 5) Types Of Baijiu 6) Baijiu Facts & FAQs 7) How To Drink Baijiu 8) Pairing Baijiu With Food 9) Baijiu Cocktails 10) Popular Baijiu Brands|
|Country of origin||China|
|Alcohol by volume||28-65%|
|“Baijiu” in Chinese characters||白酒|
|Literal meaning||“white (clear) alcohol”|
Have you heard of Baijiu? Quite simply, Baijiu is the biggest selling drink on the planet. In fact, the top 5 biggest selling drinks globally are Baijius (Johnny Walker splits them at 4th). This Chinese spirit is synonymous with so much of Chinese culture: weddings, state banquets – in fact, any state occasion – business meetings (the actual meal and constant toasts with Baijiu are perhaps where the real business is done), birthdays, presents and increasingly as a social drink. (See: How To Drink Baijiu – Baijiu Drinking Culture)
So what goes into Baijiu to make it what it is? Firstly, it’s important to appreciate that the different aromas can influence how the Baijiu tastes. Sauce aroma baijiu will differ hugely from rice aroma baijiu for example and it will contain different ingredients. So let’s break down the 4 main aromas of Baijiu and look at what goes into making them.
The process starts with fermenting cooked sorghum with other grains such as Jiuqu. Jiuqu itself is made from crushed wheat, barley and sometimes, peas. Yeast and fungi are then developed in the heat and humidity of fermenting but the real magic occurs with the mixing of Jiuqu and sorghum to create enzymes, which then creates varying flavours, whilst the yeast produces ethanol.
As grains are added to hot water, crushed Jiuqu is added to this and the mixture is then fermented further, in a pit or jar. It really depends on the aroma at this point!
- Sorghum – grass species of grain.
- Jiuqu (or Qu) – made from crushed wheat, barley and peas and often other ingredients is mixed with water and left out doors to collect airborne yeast.
Sauce Aroma Baijiu
Sorghum is fermented in stone brick pits 8 times over a year. The resulting flavour is caramel, mushroom, umami, soy and herbs. The brand Moutai can rightly be considered the Prince of Baijius and the top sauce aroma brands command exorbitant prices.
Strong Aroma Baijiu
One of the baijiu brands Wuliangye has pits as old as 600 years! A personal fascination for me is strong aroma baijiu. The fermented mash is continuously added to – so some of these old pits literally have mash which can be centuries old. I am not aware of any other alcohol which is made with the base mash as old as this. The difference to sauce aroma baijiu is that strong aroma Baijiu is made in mud pits (as opposed to stone brick).
Light Aroma Baijiu
Light aroma Baijiu is made from sorghum and Qu (wheat bran, barley, peas). Light aroma baijiu is different again for a few reasons; it is made in stone pots or pits and the tendency is to use a short production cycle. This means that the aroma is quite fresh, however the alcohol content is high – over 50% alcohol volume is normal for light aroma baijiu.
Rice Aroma Baijiu
As the aroma name suggests, rice aroma baijiu is made from….rice! Steamed grains of rice are added to Qu then water is added. The process also involves continuous distillation and the cooked rice, once mixed with Qu is then mixed in an earthenware jar. A hole is dug to allow for more air to circulate into the mixture and it only sits for one day, unlike other aromas. At this point the now sugary rice mix is put into a larger jar, water is added which activates the yeast and the jar is covered and left for about a week.