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A Letter from the Bai-ologist

So we made a big, rambling baijiu site. Why ?
Baijiu masterclass at Bar Wagemut
NADINE KUNATH

So we made a big, rambling baijiu site. Why would anyone do this? What possible motive would lead someone to create so elaborate an online platform for Chinese liquor?

It’s a long story, so pour yourself a tall glass of baijiu and find a comfortable seat.

Many years ago I started a blog about baijiu. When I set out I knew next to nothing about traditional Chinese grain spirits, a shortcoming I shared with most of the world. Over time, as I fumbled my way through countless bottles, hazy visits to backwater Chinese distilleries, and whatever relevant texts I could procure, I began to approach something resembling a basic understanding. In my immodest opinion it became a good English-language blog on baijiu, and for a while it was the only one. 

That was a long time ago. I later published a book about baijiu, again the best English-language effort on the subject (necessarily, it was also the worst). But life took me away from China, and my attention strayed. The blog grew dormant, gathered dust and was finally shuttered.

I have continued studying Chinese alcohol while the world around me has shifted. When I started writing about baijiu, the idea of baijiu cocktails was laughable. Now one can find baijiu drinks in dozens of bars around the world. Major baijiu distilleries that once ignored the international market are launching new brands aimed at non-Chinese audiences. It is in partnership with one of these brands—Ming River Sichuan Baijiu—that this project came about.

So I return to baijiu writing with a broader perspective, a mountain of new material and, critically, the resources to breathe fresh life into the subject. Many gifted artists have lent their talents to this project, and a range of new perspective on baijiu will appear on this site in the months and years to come.

But the voice I am most interested in hearing is yours. What I aim to create is a conversation not a monologue. No question is too obscure, no opinion too outrageous. I want to hear your thoughts and will respond to them to the best of my ability.

No one knows what the future of baijiu will look like. How will it fit into the international world? Who will champion it in the coming generation?

I am excited to find out.

—Derek, acting Bai-ologist


Drink Baijiu moderator pic

Derek Sandhaus

The Bai-ologist

Derek Sandhaus is the educational director of Ming River Baijiu. He is the author of several books about China, including Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits and a forthcoming book on Chinese drinking culture, Drunk in China (Potomac, Fall 2019). He currently lives with his wife and dog in Jerusalem, where he is developing a fondness for arak.