Ming River | Capital Spirits, Derek Sandhaus team up on baijiu

By Jim Boyce | Baijiu writer Derek Sandhaus has publicly thrown his hat in the ring with Ming River, a project that involves Bill Isler, Simon Dang and Matthias Heger of the Beijing bar Capital Spirits and mega spirits company Luzhao Laojiao. How big is it? In a 2017 Brand Finance report, Luzhou Laojiao was listed as having a higher brand value than Bacardi, Smirnoff and Absolut.

Sandhaus, whose English-language baijiu guide was published in 2014, has helped create the new brand for about a year with the Capital Spirits founders and recently announced he is working as the company’s education director. The Ming River site has some pretty dramatic language to explain their story.

“There were those who said it couldn’t be done. We ignored them.”

Who said it couldn’t be done?  And what is “it”? Making a baijiu brand that might appeal outside China? Because we have already seen the likes of HKB, byejoe and Confucius Wisdom.

“We met in China, and there we all fell in love with baijiu. The flavor was unlike anything we had ever tasted. The bonds we formed when drinking it ran deep. We had to spread the word. Nothing was going to stop us.”

I’m willing to bet Sandhaus did not pen a single word of that. Also, “Nothing was going to stop us” put an awful Starship song into my head.

Anyway, the site includes a profile of Ming River baijiu. “[The aroma] begins with green apple peel and gives way to a mélange of tropical fruit—papaya, guava and melon—rounded out by a hint of ripe cheese” while the flavor has “spicy pink peppercorn, with pineapple, anise and a bright and briny middle note. A long, mellow and earthy finish.”

There is also one cocktail recipe, by David Putney, Isler’s cousin and the manager of Capital Spirits.

I’ve been watching this scene unfold for a few years, including joining the 80-plus baijiu event Sandhaus organized in 2013 that helped create tasting notes for his book and talking with Isler about baijiu in the months leading to the opening of Capital Spirits. I’ve since heard lots of talk about baijiu being “the next big thing” in the spirits world although there is scant evidence of this. Perhaps it all begins with Ming River. Let’s just hope that it is closer in price to a good bottle of Bourbon or gin rather than over USD100 as seen with some of the elite brands selling beyond China.

Anyway, I’m going to write a separate post about the state of baijiu. In the meantime, you can find the Ming River website here. And, given the statement that “now we’re taking our show on the road”, I guess you can also expect Sandhaus, Isler and company to be out and about promoting their spirit.


World Baijiu Day is August 9. See the 2017 events here. Sign up for 2018 here. And follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. I also run China wine site Grape Wall and nightlife site Beijing Boyce.

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