People in the UK might not be as familiar with baijiu as other spirits. What do you wish we knew about baijiu?
Baijiu is the national spirit of China. Just like Sake of Japan, bourbon of the States, whisky of Scotland, baijiu is also a large spirit category including a broad range of brands, styles and flavours. It is also the largest spirit category in the world by volume. Just like any other spirit, baijiu can be consumed either neat, in cocktails or in special dishes.
Can you introduce us to baijiu as a spirit – its, history, where it comes from, what it’s made from and its importance in Chinese culture?
Baijiu exists everywhere in China. Different regions are known for making different styles of baijiu. Baijiu is generally a grain based distilled spirit. The type of grains varies between different styles and brands. Baijiu has deep roots in Chinese history. Its role sometimes is like sparkling wine in western culture – a must-have during celebration. Sometimes it can be also like wine, a drink to company your meals. At other times, it can be served like whisky or cognac, to be sipped and enjoyed slowly whenever.
What makes Fenjiu special as a brand?
Fenjiu is the oldest Chinese baijiu, with 6,000 years of history and is still made today according to traditional methods, albeit now with the aid of the latest technology, in the Shanxi province of north China using organic sorghum and pure spring water. Double fermentation and double distillation, ageing for between five and 30 years, and careful blending take place to achieve the highest quality liquor and its distinctive light, delicate style. It is also recognised as one of the top four Chinese Spirits. Fenjiu is not just a baijiu brand – it is also a product that represents Chinese heritage and craftmanship.
Where in the UK can we find Fenjiu?
Fenjiu can also be found in a number of top end bars, hotels and restaurants in the UK, including Harrods Baccarat Bar, Four Seasons 10 Trinity Square and The Ivy Asia. In addition Fenjiu is available from Harrods, Selfridges, The Oxford Wine Company, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason, Slurp, and Amazon.
Fenjiu’s baijius are very varied, but can you introduce us to some of the flavours to look out for?
Each Fenjiu baijiu has a very unique flavour profile. For example, Fenjiu Qing Hua 30 Year Old 53% presents an intense and concentrated palate of mixed fruit and savoury flavours, especially glace cherries, rosemary, thyme, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg, candied peel, matured fruits and coconut; while Fenjiu Qing Hua 30 Year Old 48% has an attractive palate of pine, tangy orange, umami and vanilla. The Fenjiu Zhu Ye Qing Jiu (Bamboo) series are called infused baijiu. They use classic Fenjiu as a base, and infuse with bamboo leaves and 11 other types of Chinese herbs for 21 days. The IWSC (International Wine & Spirit Competition) 2020 Gold medal winner Fenjiu Zhu Ye Qing Jiu 10 Year Old (Bamboo) has ripe and nectar-like overtones such as sweet pineapple and stewed apricot, then spicy undertones and tangy orange and honey. Fenjiu Zhu Ye Qing Jiu 30 Year Old (Bamboo) is very smooth and perfectly balanced with warming, nutty and bolder flavours of caramel, banana and honey.
Fenjiu really has a very broad flavour profile and each baijiu presents many complimentary layers of flavours.
How do you like to drink Fenjiu?
You can either drink it neat, like whisky or cognac, or use it as a base spirit for cocktails. And thanks to its broad flavour profile, Fenjiu works very well in almost every classic cocktail recipe, to replace the traditional base spirit.
What food would you pair with the different baijiu in the Fenjiu range?
There are so many possibilities. Some examples would be:
Fenjiu Qing Hua 30 Year Old 53% (Blue Flower) with a lobster and prawn risotto
Fenjiu Fen Chiew 10 Year Old 45% to accompany duck parfait with orange ginger jelly
Fenjiu Zhu Ye Qing Jiu 30 Year Old 45% (Bamboo) with a gooseberry tart
Fenjiu Zhu Ye Qing Jiu 10 Year Old 38% (Bamboo) to go with an almond tart with vanilla cream.
Can you recommend a spring cocktail to make from Fenjiu baijiu?
Here are two lovely Fenjiu cocktails for spring:
Fenjiu Orange Charmer
20ml Fenjiu Zhu Ye Qing Jiu (Bamboo)
80ml fresh orange juice
Top up with 20ml ginger ale
Garnish with a slice of orange
Fenjiu Bamboo Garden
25ml Fenjiu Zhu Ye Qing Jiu (Bamboo)
25ml Elderflower cordial
20ml Lemon juice