Getting started: light aroma


Light aroma, the baijiu of choice in north China, is a bit more diverse than other categories so it’s hard to get a good sense of it from just one baijiu. Luckily, it’s also one of the cheapest, so it lends itself to experimentation. This list offers a good breadth of baijius from across the north.

Light aroma (qing xiang 清香)

Mid-range: Laobai Fenjiu 老白汾酒 by Xinghuacun 杏花村

Price: RMB150/US$24

Shanxi Province’s pride and joy is its Fenjiu, which claims to be the oldest baijiu brand on the market with a history of over 1,500 years. For reasons previously discussed, they’re probably stretching the truth a bit, but the product speaks for itself. Fenjiu is a sorghum-rice blend, twice distilled, with a mellow somewhat piney taste. It’s also widely available throughout the country.

Dirt cheap: Erguotou 二锅头: Yongfeng 永丰 or Red Star 红星 (steer clear of the Niulanshan 牛栏山)

Price: RMB5/US$0.80 and up

Erguotou is Beijing’s specialty baijiu, and there are lots of brands to choose from. None of it is particularly great, but it’s cheaper than water and far better than one would expect for something that is as cheap as Shasta.

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3 Responses to Getting started: light aroma

  1. bcheng says:

    Curious why you say stay away from Niulanshan? As someone living in Beijing for many years, I’ve often been forced to drink baijiu with friends. I’d never personally choose to drink it, but I can do so (and I do kinda have an affinity for the Mongolian King (menggu wang) yi kou beis). Anyways, the erguotou of choice is always the green labeled clear bottles of Niulanshan over Hongxing. Wondering if you’ve just had a bad night with that brand, just don’t like the taste, or know something even worse. Love the blog!

    • Derek says:

      Thanks, glad you’re enjoying the blog. Please send over a picture of the Mongolian King with a brief description the next time you indulge, so I can pass along the recommendation to other readers.
      Re: Erguotou. Nothing scientific, it’s an entirely subjective reaction based on my personal experiences. Niulanshan is the best-selling erguotou on the market (because it’s also the cheapest, I suspect), but I just don’t care for its taste. I find the others to be a bit milder as well.

  2. Arbin says:

    I’ll second the put-down of Niulanshan. Terrible stuff. The cheap 红星二锅头 in the little green bottles behind the counter of every place selling food in Beijing tasted pretty good in the 2000s, but they’ve since been using premiumization tricks like everyone else; to get the same flavor now, I’ve been buying the blue bottle version labeled as 8-yr vintage.

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