My name is Jim Boyce; I do a lot of freelancing consulting on wine, and I am running a thing called World Baijiu Day this month. And basically we're having 20 cities do baijiu events. Baijiu is the national spirit of China, it represents 99% of all alcohol sales, like spirits, but almost no one outside this company knows anything about it, which is crazy because it's 1/3 of alcohol sales worldwide, is our estimate. So our idea is to get people around the world to try it, we're not trying to get them to love it; we just want people to say, "We've tried this." So, to make a judgment on actual experience. It's a distilled spirit; it's kind of unique in that, there's a thing called chu, and it's this brick of bacteria and mold and yeast, and it's used as fermentation, and it really does look like a brick out of a house. So it's very unique in that it turns the starches, the grain into sugar and the sugar into alcohol, all in a simultaneous step. Whereas with whiskey or gin you have two steps, so it's kind of a unique category, it's almost like a divergence on the alcohol genealogy chart. The taste can vary, I mean there are a lot of different styles, for example there's one called sauce. If you're familiar with Chinese cooking you might think it smells a little bit like soya sauce, a little bit like sesame oil, a little yeasty. Other ones are called light aromas, and they're popular in Beijing, and they have more, a little sweet smell, a little tropical fruit. And they do have a very strong alcohol smell. It's the hardest thing for foreigners, or for non-Chinese to get over, is the very strong smell. But I always tell people who come here and say, "I hate it" would you ever drink a shot of gin? Who drinks 10 shots of gin warm, room temperature? So that's why our focus is on cocktails, on creative uses for the spirit.
Okay, so we're going to start off with a New Zealand baijiu, and most people would not even believe that there is such a thing. It's two Taiwanese brothers who live in Christchurch, found somebody to use their still and make this baijiu. All the water comes from New Zealand, so there idea is that they're creating something organic. It's quite spicy on the tongue, and it's got a bit of liquorice, you know, anise. That's quite tasty.
So I think what's kind of happening in western countries over the past decade or so, is this kind of interest in trying arcane, spirits, craft beers, wines, the whole organic wine movement, craft distillation, niche beers. And I think baijiu fits into that whole theme of exploring what the world has to offer. And so a lot of bartenders really want to see what they can do with this spirit. And especially because it's such a challenging taste, so anyone who can come through and make that signature cocktail for baijiu, who can make the long island, or the martini, or the mojito for baijiu, that's going to be a huge breakthrough because it really is a difficult spirit to work with. I think technically you can make any style of baijiu in any place, but certain regions gravitate towards certain styles. For example, around Beijing we have something called light aroma, so it's quite phenolic, quite strong, a little bit of pineapple fruitiness. Whereas in Sichuan there's a sauce aroma, more bready, sesame, soya. One of the interesting things is some of these guys put their baijiu, like they're making it in these pits that they've been using for over 100 years. So the bacteria and everything has been, the yeast has been multiplying for 100 years, and they claim that's a special part of their flavor. I'm not educated enough to know whether it is or not. There's some kits are supposed to be 400 years continuous use. A lot of people ask me what's different now compared to 10 years ago? And the Number one difference is choice. I remember during the Olympics in 2008, we were so excited to have three or four craft beers, now there's a place in my neighborhood with over 200. You now, if there's a bar with 10 whiskeys here, we consider that a whiskey bar. Now there are bars with over 300 whiskeys. So this idea of being able to go somewhere and try all different types of alcohol, whether it's a beer or wine or spirits, that's not just a western phenomenon, that's happening here. And it's also driven by online sales, people can sit in their house and say, "Look, I want to try some, I've never had a Japanese whiskey, I've never had an Oregon gin" And they can order it. So I think we've this explosion if interest in China in all different types of alcohols.
The next one is from Wuhu, which is in Anhui Province in southern China. And this is a guy that came up here and wanted to get involved in World Baijiu Day, and this is a strong aroma Baijiu. And this one's about 38% alcohol, so it's not as strong as the first one, but it's a very different style. It's strength comes more from the dryness and just how concentrated it is. So, World Baijiu Day was just this idea I had when I was kind of bored during Chinese New Year, and I wanted to do something fun. And I’d been doing a lot of Chinese wine, and I wanted to do something different, and I thought Baijiu is something that's so huge here, and it's such a huge part of the culture and in terms of global sales it's the biggest selling spirit in the world, but almost no one outside of this country knows about it. So my idea was to get maybe a half dozen, or 10 cities around the world to do an event on the same day, and it ended up being 20 cities. So basically the idea is, everybody does an event as something special, you can't just open a bottle and do shots. So in Houston they did infused ice cream, they took these baijiu infusions and mixed them with ice cream. In Beijing we did deep fried baijiu, we took angel food cake, we poured baijiu on it, we just dropped it in the deep fryer, and what happens is the outside seals, but the inside stays soft and it doesn't get hot enough to burn off the alcohol. You take it out, it's nice and crispy, you put some sugar and blueberry jam on it and then you eat it. So in different places, London did cocktails, New York did infusions, so each city had something special going on, and we really want to get to do that, to get beyond "gan bei", and I just personally thought that would be fun. We have no advertisers, we have no sponsors, it's just something that, late at night I'm sitting in my room contacting all these people in cities I've never even been to, but were really enthusiastic about it. So part of why I got into it was because of their enthusiasm.
And our third one is called Yimuquanjiu, and it's from very close to Beijing, a city called Baoding, which is just southwest of here. And this is one of their lower alcohol ones, it's 38%, and we'll give this one a try, that ones quite different, right? Maybe like a little bit more sesame, soya sauce, a bit more yeasty. It really has that savory kind of Maotai smell, combined with the strong aroma. So this is a mixed aroma product, it's the two styles together, and you really get that savouryness.
And another great thing is, there's this called the wine and spirit education trust, it's the number one alcohol education group in the world. And we talked to them and actually did the first ever baijiu master class, just before World Baijiu Day. So they have hundreds of centers around the world, so this could actually end up being part of their curriculum in the future. So that was also just something that came out of this project.
I think luxury is more about exploring things, consumers have a lot of control, they have a lot of options because so many, especially foreign countries, want to be here, and so they have this luxury of trying all these things that they didn't have 10 years ago. And for me it's very exciting because I also have more options here than I have back home. I mean, I don't have a store with 200 beers in my neighborhood back in Canada, but I have one within 100 meters here. I have 20 wine bars and cocktail bars all around me. So there is this kind of explosion of interest in kind of foreign products, niche products.