The liquor aisles of Chinese supermarkets usually splits into two categories: simple bottles and gift boxes. This is because giving gifts is a huge part of the culture here. So, why give somebody a bottle of booze when you can give that person that bottle in fancy packaging? So, the above is a gift pack of Yanghe’s 38% ABV daqujiu 大曲酒. More on what this is will come later. I bought this for 10 RMB. At the current exchange rate, that’s $1.44 retail. However, I think I bought this off of a discount shelf, to be honest. The real price might be higher. Honestly, not by much.
The reverse of the package looks like this. This makes the product look bilingual, and it is. The promotional copy on the not-seen sides of the box are in both English and Chinese. For a 10 RMB cheap drink, that may seem weird. However, Yanghe is one of the larger baijiu distillers in China, and they do export. So, what’s inside the box?
A fancy-shaped bottle. This is the reverse side with a bas relief-like version of the label’s topless woman. Gift box versions of Chinese booze can sometimes get highly extravagant. Regular versions of this sort of thing look like this.
Okay, so what does this taste like?
Admittedly, baijiu really is an acquired taste for many foreigners in China. One also has realize that this a category of Chinese spirits and not a singular thing. Yanghe predominately ferments a sorghum-based mash of grains and peas. Here is where the qu 曲 in “da qu” comes in. The character 曲 refers the active cultures used to start the fermentation process. There are many different types of qu 曲 used to make baijiu. Arguably, daqu 大曲 and erqu 二曲 are not the same fermenting cultures. This can greatly effect the resulting flavor.
Out of all the types of Baijiu there are to be had daqujiu is not one of my favorites, but it’s also not intolerable. When it comes to Yanghe’s entry into this category, there are actually three alcohol by volume versions you can try. This gift box contained the 38% variety — which is the weakest. Once the ABV starts going up, the more it becomes undrinkable for me. As you can see in the above picture, this is something I absolutely can’t drink neat. This stuff actually burns when it hits your stomach, but that quickly fades. For me, this stuff has to be on the rocks, and if I can add some water to hasten dilution, I will. This time around, I didn’t try any mixers.
So, would this be something I’d recommend to the curious at heart wondering what the world of Chinese grain alcohol is about? No. Would I buy this gift box and give it to a Chinese friend? Absolutely not. Is it a passable drink? Well, okay, but only if you know baijiu. I have had worse.