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The World’s Most Valued Spirit Is One You (Probably) Haven’t Heard Of

Get to know baijiu, the national drink of China and a surprisingly smooth firewater.

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Brand Finance released its annual report on the most valuable beer and spirit brands, and for the first time, baijiu (bye-j’oh) labels came out on top, with a brand value market share of 37.5 percent and combined value of over $22 billion. China’s leading baijiu label, Moutai, grew a whopping 60 percent year over year, upping its brand value by $11.5 million. Numbers aside, the growth of the spirit, coupled with the continued evolution of the craft cocktail movement, suggests that China’s national spirit is primed for entry into new markets.

Traditionally distilled from sorghum, baijiu has a polarizing burn akin to moonshine, with an ABV that ranges from 40–60 percent. Hong Kong Baijiu is leading the spirit’s introduction into the U.S., with a five-grain spirit made in Sichuan, China. The grains ferment in mud pits before being distilled in pot stills, at which point the extracted liquid is aged in traditional ceramic jars for several years. Before being bottled, HKB filters its fiery baijiu to remove impurities and draw out underlying notes of citrus, allspice, red berries and grass.

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