In the first couple weeks of my travels, a friend and I have made a slow arc from Chengdu in western China to Fujian on the East Coast. Below are a few notes from the road and an updated shot count.
Mar. 24-26, 2012: Chengdu – At Tangjiuhui, China’s biggest national spirits conference. Met people in all aspects of the baijiu biz, from brewing to sales and all points in between. Samples abounded, with nine unique baijiu shots including a tasty Inner Mongolian milk-based baijiu, Fi Dio 非蒂.
Mar. 28-29: Maotai Zhen, Guizhou – Drank 39 shots in less than 24 hours with a whole lot of important people at Kweichou Moutai Co. Saw the official 1915 Panama-Pacific medal and corresponding certificate, and an official retraction of past speculations will be posted in short order. Starting to like sauce-aroma baijiu, the rest is just a matter of time.
April 4-6: Near Kaili, Guizhou – At the Sisters’ Meal Festival, hoping to score some solid home-brewed mizhou 米酒 (rice wine) off the Miao people (also known as the Hmong), but far too many DSLR-wielding hordes in the way. Went instead for some sauce-aroma Maotai Zhen 茅台镇 baijiu (not to be confused with Kweichou Maotai). Tasted great in the afternoon, awful later that night, but was a solid value at RMB68, or about US$11. Tried to get a farmer to take a few shots with me, but he told me that he only drinks with dinner. His loss.
April 8: Xingping and Yangshou, Guangxi – Stumbled upon (and later out of) a rural hooch depot dating back to the Tongzhi period (1861-1876) of the Qing Dynasty. Fantastic osmanthus (桂花 guihua) and three-flower (三花 sanhua) rice-aroma baijius, and an especially pleasant undistilled rice wine with a milky color and a sweet, nutty flavor.
If you must go to a Zhang Yimou-produced extravaganza on the Li River, and I really wish that you would, it would be advisable to have a few drinks (or hallucinogens) beforehand.
Wrapped up a productive day with a healthy nightcap of snake baijiu.
April 9: Guilin – Visited Guilin Sanhua 桂林三花, China’s leading producer of rice-aroma, small qu baijiu. Tested their flagship sanhuajiu (three-flower liquor) and a newer product, Lao Guilin. Then it was off to the Guilin Sanhua museum, built into the side of Elephant Hill, Guilin’s most famous attraction (that’s how they do guanxi in Guangxi). Their production methods are fundamentally different than those of any sorghum-based baijiu, and it would be fair to call them distinct liquors. More on this later.
April 11: Guangzhou – Say what you will, but my friend and I spent a quiet afternoon in the park sipping deer penis and ginseng baijiu, and it was just delightful.
From here it’s a straight shot north along the coast until I hit Harbin. More updates to come and 95 shots to go – that’s right, double digits.