Getting started: sauce aroma

Maotai, a town that smells as good as it looks.

I started out hating this stuff, because I was drinking bad sauce-aroma baijiu and there’s really nothing worse than bad sauce aroma. But then I tried the good stuff, and became quite fond of it. Sooner or later there comes a time in everyone’s baijiu-drinking life when they have to bite the bullet and find out what all the Kweichow Moutai hype is about. There’s are ways to do this, the smart method and the financially ruinous method. Both are discussed below.

Sauce aroma (jiang xiang 酱香)

Cry yourself to sleep expensive: Feitian 飞天 by Kweichow Moutai 贵州茅台

Price: RMB2,000/US$315

If you absolutely must drink Moutai, make sure you’re drinking the right product. Feitian, the flying fairy, is a baijiu so expensive that you’ll need to sell your liver, plasma and firstborn child baijiu if you develop a taste for it. It’s fantastic, with a mellow and slightly tart taste. But for that price, it better be good. Is it worth it? Depends how much compensating you need to do.

Inexpensive: Laimao 赖茅 by Maotai Zhen 茅台镇

Price: RMB80/US$13

If you want a taste of Maotai without having to take out a second mortgage on the house, I highly recommend you try Maotai Zhen (Maotai Town). The taste is close enough to Kweichow Moutai to give you a rough approximation of top-end sauce aroma. Is it as good as the super-expensive stuff? No, but it’s more than good enough for the price. And high-end Maotai Zhen is, in my view, much better than low-end Kweichow Moutai. A note of caution: Drink it all in one sitting, because this brand has a tendency to rapidly decline in quality when it oxidizes.

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