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Cleaver Quarterly
Articles  |  Bai-ology

All the Baijiu in the World

So many baijius, so little time
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A variety of baijiu bottles

“The world of Chinese spirits,” that’s what we call this site. This is not hyperbole or self-aggrandizement, just a simple observation.

China is a country approximately the same size as Europe, and the diversity of its alcohol reflects that. There are about ten thousand baijiu distilleries in China, which according to the National Statistics Bureau collectively produce about 12.9 baijiu each year—a volume larger than the global production of whiskey and vodka. Combined.

Four of the world’s ten-most valuable spirits brands are baijius, including the single-most valuable spirits company, Kweichow Moutai.

But it’s about more than just whose is bigger. It’s about depth and complexity. As a category, baijiu contains at least twelve distinct styles that in any other country would be rightly considered entirely different spirits. Within those styles are a number of variations and sub-categories. And since a baijiu’s flavor is highly dependent on natural processes and local microclimates, each of the tens of thousands of brands is a little different.

Phoenix aroma, light aroma, special aroma… It’s enough to make one take up drinking.

It may be to see how all the different baijiu fits together, but visuals can help. A few years back the peerless staff of The Cleaver Quarterly asked if I would help them put together the first map of the world of Chinese spirits. And now, with CQ’s permission, I am very pleased to share the result with you.


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.


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