With all the love that soju has been getting these days, it seems unfair that I haven’t yet devoted any time to China’s national spirit baijiu (白酒), especially since I’ve been bumming around Shanghai for two months.
Now baijiu is a difficult subject to broach, especially if you’re, for all intents and purposes, a foreigner like myself. There is a huge deal of baijiu on the market, but the marketing is heavily skewed towards the local Chinese market, and more to the point, Chinese aficionados. The result is that there’s scarce amounts of English literature a pedestrian such as myself would have access to, and what little there is is typically written by the rare westerner that fell in love with baijiu years ago when they visited the Middle Kingdom on business.
Let’s face it. Baijiu is not a popular spirit as far as Americans are concerned. The pungent and quite simply indescribable nose of fermented sorghum (though somewhat familiar to Korea’s old fashioned Andong soju) is often too much for the uninitiated. The ABV is frequently as brain numbingly high at 60% or more. The packaging is kitschy and antiquated, especially when compared side-by-side with modern liquor bottles (Tanqueray 10 and Bacardi’s new bottles? Phwoar). Worst of all, for me at least, the taste of baijiu is so intense, you can’t make a drink with baijiu without blowing all the other flavours in the drink to oblivion.
How fortunate we are to be alive in this era then, when up steps a company like byejoe, the spirit of China to challenge everything there is to dislike about baijiu. I dropped a line to byejoe’s Shanghai office, but it turned out that byejoe’s President and CEO, Matt Trusch was at their Texas headquarters at the time. Luckily, Matt was kind enough to grant me an interview by phone and fill me in on byejoe’s back story. Continue Reading