Taste test | Guanyun baijiu from Jiangsu

Well, that was a surprise.

Often when I go to a baijiu tasting, it’s ten brands that taste similar or a misguided attempt at pairing baijiu with ‘Western’ food and / or endless ganbei-ing.

Not today. I left Guanyun’s Beijing office impressed (and pretty sober!) with their packaging, bottle design, glassware and spirits. I especially liked the distinct characters of the five baijius we tasted.

If you’re the type who turns up your nose at baijiu’s aroma, the offerings of Jiangsu-based Guanyun are worth a try. They are far tamer than what is often found in the market.

Our first baijiu smelled savory, reminding me a bit of fenjiu, though I was told it was jiang xiang style. A sorghum-wheat mix, with herbal and umami notes, it was smooth and skillfully balanced, with a tingly slightly salty finish.

The second, a five-grain nong xiang style, had a racy anise aroma smell with touches of citrus. This one was light and playful at first before a wealth of spices took over the tongue. The third was a less boozy version but still loaded with spice power. Despite their potency, they still seemed relatively soft compared to many other baijius, with a slight sweetness that made them go down easy..

The fourth baijiu had an initial blue cheese funkiness that blew off to grassy (maybe wood?) and melon aromas. Bone dry with a long tingly finish.

We ended with a 20-year-old baijiu that also brought some funk: it was dry and punchy at 60 percent alcohol.

What I liked is that you could easily learn to tell these baijius apart in an hour and also find out which style a given person likes.

Thanks to Team Guanyun and to restaurant The Rug, which stocks two of these baijius and made the introduction. I’m talking to The Rug about doing a repeat of these five baijius paired with some tasty snacks. (Those funky baijius with The Rug’s mapo tofu pizza? Yes, please!)

By the way, Guanyun has some nice glassware, too. Unfortunately, I was so focused on tasting, I didn’t take any photos. The shot glass in my picture is from my apartment.

I’ll post more soon about Guanyun: the role of Jiangsu’s Hongze Lake, the types of grains used, the aging process, how they came up with the designs and so on.

Often when I go to a baijiu tasting, it’s ten brands that taste the same or a misguided attempt at pairing baijiu to ‘Western’ food and / or endless ganbei-ing.

Not today. I left Guanyun’s Beijing office impressed (and sober!) with their packaging, bottle design, glassware and spirits. I liked especially the distinct characters of the five baijius we tasted.

If you’re the type who turns up your nose at the aroma of baijiu, Guanyun’s are worth a try. They are far tamer than what is often found in the market.

Our first baijiu smelled savory, reminding me of fenjui, though I was told it was jiang xiang style. A sorghum-wheat mix, with light ripe tropical fruit touches, it was smooth and skillfully balanced, with a tingly slightly salty finish.

The second baijiu, a five-grain-variety, had a racy licorice aroma smell with touches of citrus. This one was light and playful at first before a wealth of spices takes over the tongue. The third was a less boozy version but still loaded with spice power.

The fourth baijiu had a slight blue cheese funkiness that blew off to grassy (or maybe wood?) and melon aromas. Bone dry with a long tingly finish.

We finished with a 20-year-old baijiu that also brought some funk: it was dry and punchy at 60 percent alcohol.

What I liked is that you could easily learn to tell these baijius apart in an hour and also find out which style a given person likes.

Thanks to Team Guanyun and to restaurant The Rug, which stocks two of these baijius and made the introduction. I’m talking to The Rug about doing a repeat of these five baijius paired with some tasty snacks. (Those funky baijius with The Rug’s mapo tofu pizza? Yes, please!)

By the way, Guanyun has some nice glassware, too. Unfortunately, I was so focused on tasting, I didn’t take any photos. The shot glass in my picture is from my apartment.

World Baijiu Day is held each August 9. See our 2018 event list here. The 2019 list is coming soon. Follow World Baijiu Day on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Get in touch with Jim Boyce via spirit (at) worldbaijiuday.com.

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