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Baijiu News Review: The New World Drink Order Edition

Baijiu shifts gears as COVID-19 forces the world indoors.
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It’s May 4th as we publish this, but time and dates no longer has the same resonance. Though the COVID-19 shutdowns have only been going on for about a month and a half now, for most of us it feels like much longer. With our attention preoccupied, the baijiu news is a bit slower in coming out, but we’re committed in bringing it to you, even if less frequently than usual.

The world we lived in the last time I published a news update is much changed. The global hospitality industry has all but collapsed, taking many of our favorite bars and restaurants with it. DrinkBaijiu’s home base—New York City—has been hit harder than anywhere in the planet, and we hope that the worst is behind us. It’s clear that whenever we return from our seclusion, things will be forever changed, and it may take a very long time indeed before things feel normal.

But there is still news beyond the plague, and much of it happy and diverting. The baijiu industry has started to show signs of recovery, some distillers have begun shifting gears toward producing hand sanitizer, and more and more of the planet is showing interest in Chinese spirits. Better still, the lockdowns have created numerous opportunities for online education about spirits, and online baijiu seminars are popping up all over the place. Check out our next one this Wednesday, May 6, or check in regularly for events updates on other online opportunities in the weeks and months to come.

Bonus: Baijiu Bitcoin?

Headlines

Chinese Alcohol Producer Tokenizes National Tipple with Sina Corp Deal—Lawrence Cole, AsumeTech

Have we entered the age of the baijiu standard? Chinese baijiu producer Wuliangye has launched an ambitious blockchain-backed digital currency tied to the value of their liquor. Why, and for what purpose, it is difficult to say, but with the rapid appreciation in price by high-end baijiu producers in recent decades, this may be one worth investigating.

Coronavirus: Chinese Liquor Companies Are Now Making Hand Sanitizer—Weiyu Qian, Goldthread

“Before the coronavirus outbreak, Guomei produced an average 20,000 tons of baijiu every year with a staff of around 2,000 people…‘Each person is now pumping out 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizer every day,’ says Xue Yufeng, a production line leader at Guomei. ‘And this amount is going to increase.’ ”

Meet the Man Making Baijiu…in Britain—Annie Hayes, Master of Malt

A profile of Pete Thompson of the recently released Thompson’s Baijiu, exploring the unique process he is pursuing to create a most untraditional baijiu in England. Does it still count? I don’t know, but I’m very eager to try it. (A little late in posting this, but it only just caught my attention, and it’s well worth a look.)

China Liquor Giant Moutai Sees Profit Gain Despite Virus Lockdowns—Daniela Wei, Bloomberg

Death and taxes and the price of Moutai. These are the eternal constants. But take it as a good potential sign of resilience and hope for the post-COVID future that the demand for consumer goods is bouncing back so quickly in China. Either that, or Moutai is indestructible.

Why There’s Never Been a Better Time to Delve into the World of Asian Grain Spirits—Max Brearley, Delicious.DRINKS

“Delicious. drinks editor Mike Bennie says Australians are beginning to dip into the less-traditional spirits. ‘They’re typically drunk in their own local demographic, but we’re seeing them creeping into broader audiences and the bartender landscape,’ he says.”

Bai-ology

Neat! Episode 37: Baijiu and Chinese Drinking Culture

I spend so much time listening to myself talk about Chinese alcohol and drinking culture, that it’s always a delight to have a fresh perspective on the subject, so I was pleased to find this excellent podcast discussing the intricacies of Chinese booze and drinking culture. Really in-depth discussion and very well done, and did I mention that they are also streaming baijiu cocktails on Youtube?

Familias de Bebidas Asiáticas en 430/四三〇

En español. Another great bit of education on the families of Asian spirits from friend of DrinkBaijiu, Niquito Constantin. If you speak Spanish, check it out.

Self-Promotion Corner

Book Review: ‘Drunk in China: Baijiu and the World’s Oldest Drinking Culture,’ by Derek Sandhaus—Millie Milliken, Imbibe

“[T]his may be one of the most entertaining spirits books we’ve read.”

Booklist: Drunk in China—Jeremiah Jenne, The World of Chinese

“It is a cliche, although no less accurate for being so, that sometimes the best way to learn about a place is through the slightly warped view found at the bottom of a glass. Sandhaus’ misadventures in pursuit of his ethanol epiphanies, some previously recorded on his research blog ‘300 Shots to Greatness,’ are classic anecdotes that will be fascinating to readers abroad. Those with more experience in China may nod along while mentally recounting a few hazy baijiu misadventures of their own.”


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 Washington, D.C.