IN GOOD SPIR­ITS

FOR ITS NEW­EST CRE­ATION, THIS AUSSIE ICON HAS JOINED FORCES WITH THE WORLD’S MOST POP­U­LAR LIQUOR - AND CHANCES ARE YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF IT.

GQ (Australia) - - GQ TASTE + TRAVEL -

It dates back around 700 years and more than five bil­lion litres of it are con­sumed each year, with shots thrown back non-stop at cel­e­bra­tions and wed­dings. But chances are, you’re prob­a­bly un­aware of Bai­jiu, China’s most pop­u­lar hard liquor. The Bai­jiu con­sumed to­day came to be dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty. Steamed sorghum and other grains are mixed with wa­ter then ji­uqu, a fer­men­ta­tion kick-starter, is added be­fore dis­til­la­tion takes place. De­pend­ing on the style of Bai­jiu, the spirit is then put in un­der­ground jars, mud or brick pits and left to age any­where from a few months to sev­eral decades. The re­sult is a spirit that ranges in po­tency any­where from 40-60 per cent ABV. But de­spite its her­itage, there’s still room for fresh in­ter­pre­ta­tions. The most re­cent in­no­va­tion in the Bai­jiu cat­e­gory has been led by famed Aus­tralian wine­maker Pen­folds, in its new spir­ited wine with Bai­jiu. James God­frey, Pen­folds global for­ti­fied and spir­its wine­maker, spoke to GQ about his lat­est con­coc­tion. “Look­ing to cre­ate some­thing unique, we ex­per­i­mented with many dif­fer­ence spir­its,” he says. “But most just didn’t fuse well with our wine; they im­parted too much oak.” For­ti­fied with both grape spirit and Bai­jiu to a more mod­est 21.5 per cent ABV, the re­lease is des­tined to in­tro­duce a new spirit cat­e­gory to Aus­tralian, and in­ter­na­tional, con­sumers. “It im­parts a won­der­ful savoury qual­ity,” says God­frey, “very dif­fer­ent to the more com­mon, sweeter wines in­flu­enced by Europe. Cut­ting back on the sugar also makes the wine pair well with food, while the juicy Aus­tralian Shiraz brings forth the well-known cherry and aniseed notes of Pen­folds.” Bai­jiu con­sump­tion has been drop­ping since Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping im­ple­mented mea­sures to cut un­nec­es­sary govern­ment spend­ing. This, paired with the coun­try’s younger pop­u­la­tion look­ing be­yond do­mes­tic drinks, sug­gest Bai­jiu sales may be at risk. Luck­ily, brands are eye­ing the West as a new mar­ket, while West­ern drinks pro­duc­ers have started to no­tice China’s best-sell­ing spirit and its po­ten­tial.

BAI­JIU CHEAT SHEETPen­folds ‘Lot. 518 Spir­ited Wine with Bai­jiu’ is best served room tem­per­a­ture. No sur­prise it pairs well with Chi­nese food, par­tic­u­larly dishes like beef in black bean sauce.

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