Make mine a………What drink outsells both vodka and whisky globally?
You would be forgiven for thinking that vodka (or forms of gin, whisk(e)y – or even rum) might feature as the spirits that dominate spirits trade. And if you are looking at a geographical spread you would be right. And if you compared those same spirits to the English language, then it is the most widely spoken language in the world.
However the most spoken language is North Mandarin in terms of populace and indeed it is a Chinese spirit – Baijiu – which outsells all those other spirits.
Baijiu actually accounts for 31% of the sales volume in spirit drinks. Vodka at 19% and whisky at 11% combine at 30%, still lower than Baijiu on its own. It’s incredible to think that Baijiu is still only known marginally outside of mainland China.
Have a look at this ‘league table’ and realise that in the list of world’s 10 most valuable spirits brands, Baijiu accounts for 5 of them and has 4 in the top 5 alone.
One of the characteristics which have made it more difficult to spread is the pallet itself. Much like whisky perhaps, there are “aromas” (and increasingly, some sub aromas) which offer differing tastes. But Baijiu can be anything from a milder, rice spirit right up to a strong spirit (think lapsang souchong tea instead of earl grey) and then a sauce variety, elements we will explore in a different blog.
Over time, Baijiu has been described as having soy, rotting grass, floral notes, honey, petrol, fire(!), fruit palates and nutty varieties – and one thing which seems prevalent is the variation. Don’t let one cheaper Baijiu put you off the whole range, as it really is a voyage of discovery to find one that suits your palate best. Another thing to note is that in China, Baijiu is often drunk in small measures with meals (See: What Food Goes Well With Baijiu?); however, more and more bars are opening even in China with the purpose of selling it directly and some are converting the cheaper brands into baijiu cocktails.
As our series progresses, we’ll look at the different varieties of Baijiu, what snacks might work well with differing Baijiu “aromas” and where you can purchase Baijiu outside of China. Remember the name and find out more about this fascinating – and intriguing – spirit. Ganbei!