The incredible history of Chinese of fermenting Sorghum and other grains for alcohol production is thousands of years old. There's evidence that those grains were being distilled as early as 800 BC. Modern Baijiu production begins in earnest around the 13th century. The biggest difference between grain alcohol production in China and Europe in terms of technology has to do with the use of solid state fermentation. Instead of using enzymes from malting grain, the Chinese developed a system of bacteria fermentation (much like Koji in Sake production), but what's unique to the Chinese technique is that all the fermentation occurs in a solid state. Both sugar break down and alcoholic fermentation occur without the precense of excess water. The resulting pungently flavored wine is distilled with steam and then rested for years before being bottled and consumed. Baijiu is the world's most popular spirit. Over 10,000 distilleries exist in mainland China, but the Luzhou Laojiao Distillery is China's oldest continuously operating plant. Fermentation takes upwards of 2 months in earthen pits before traditional Chinese pot distillation. The spirit is rested for two years before blending and bottling at a healthy 90 proof. For one of the great spirits in the world, Baijiu has not been a major player in the American scene. It's powerful and unique flavors are typically an acquired taste, but Ming River appeals to any adventerous cocktail wonk, especially lovers of funky rum and mezcal.
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