Bai Jiu is the drink of choice for many Chinese. Usually, consumed with dinner to a round of “GanBei!” So what better way to celebrate St Patrick’s day than by getting to know a little more about the history of this treasured Chinese beverage.
Arriving at the museum we were instantly impressed by the seemingly ancient doors which opened up onto a large dark space. It was here we met our tour guide, Tony, who would impart all his knowledge onto us. The history, culture and production process were all meticulously explained to us making for a fantastic tour.
Inside the first room was a model village representing the area of the city where the factory/museum is located. From looking at the model village, you could gain a greater understanding of how life would’ve been in Chengdu over 500 years ago by seeing the factory standing in its historic surroundings, unlike the metropolis which surrounds it today.
After a brief introduction to the history and Shui Jing Fang in Chengdu, we were taken into a next building. Through the doors, we could smell the pungent aroma of fermenting grains. It was in this next building where we saw the fermentation pits, each pit 3m long by 2m wide and 2m deep. This fermentation process lasts for 3 months with the temperature monitored to ensure the process has been completed before the grains are unearthed.
The tour continued as we were then shown the process of condensing the vapour from the grains. This technique has been unchanged for hundreds of years, similar to the whole process used at Shui Jing Fang. The different stages of the condensing period result in different alcohol concentration and therefore flavours.
It is the job of the master blender to make sure all the bottles of Shui Jing Fang taste the same. This highly coveted job is passed from generation to generation and a list of all the master blenders can be found in the museum. Shui Jing Fang is currently in their eighth generation of blenders, now training their ninth.
It was at this point we were then taken to the tasting room. Greeted by a lady in a medical lab coat and 2 little tasting glasses. We were told one had been aged and another hadn’t. Both glasses were over 70% alcohol purity and it was immediately clear that the aged baijiu had a more fragrant flowery flavour whilst the unaged baijiu was nothing but a deep burn.
All in all, we had a fantastic day out. Learning the process of how to make Baijiu as well as learning some history and culture.
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