Last week I had baijiu for the first time in well over a year, courtesy of my friend Tony. We were drinking Wuliangye 五粮液, a local (distilled in Yibin, Sichuan) brand named after the five grains used in its base and considered to be among China’s finest baijius. People pay upward of $100 a bottle for Wuliangye, well out of the price range of most casual Chinese drinkers.
It was smooth, had complex flavors and left not a shade of a hangover this morning. The only catch was that it tasted like lighter fluid and horse piss. Taking my task seriously, though, I sloshed it around in mouth in an attempt to delve deeper into the flavor profile and find a redeeming feature. The aftertaste was particularly interesting. It was a harsh, fiery taste, but there was also something sweet. Raisin or apricot, if I had to pick something.
“I think it smells like rubbing alcohol,” Tony said – and he actually likes the stuff.
That’s the sad truth. There’s no skirting the issue that it tastes and smells distinctly industrial. Paint thinner, jet fuel, whatever – its not going to go away no matter how much of it I drink. I have to own up to the fact that no amount of knowledge will make this early drinking any easier. For now, the stuff is radioactive.
“Another glass?” Tony asked.
“No, I think that’s enough.”
Butane-flavored burps lit the way home.
268 drinks to go.