Mystery Chinese spirit produced from 300-year-old recipe

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Despite achieving 2018 sales surpassing those of vodka, gin, whiskey, rum and tequila combined, baijiu, a mysterious Chinese spirit, is little known in the UK. However, the UK market is now welcoming baijiu onto the scene in the form of ‘V.I.P. Jiu 8’.

A clear, colourless spirit reaching 35 to 60 percent proof, baijiu is traditionally produced from sorghum grain. The use of unique ‘qū’ starters, triggering the fermentation process, gives produce from each individual distillery a distinctive flavour.

The newly released V.I.P. Jiu 8 is produced by British entrepreneur Irving Graham, who spent over a year perfecting it before its launch.

The real story is in how Graham came to be a baijiu producer. As a Chinese antiques specialist, Graham purchased a cracked wine cup, said to have been from the 19th or 20th century, for £300 at auction in 2014. It was later found that the cup was, in fact, from the Imperial Chinese collection, previously housed in the Forbidden City between 1661 and 1722, making it much more ancient than first thought.

Before selling the cup for £28,000, Graham discovered inside its presentation box a handwritten note containing a recipe for baijiu, with ingredients chosen by the Kangxi Emperor himself. After a trip on the Trans-Siberian railway, learning about Chinese culture, tradition and the history surrounding baijiu, Graham felt able to produce a modern, British distilled version of the drink that ‘embraces and celebrates’ its roots.

The 300-year-old formula has produced a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed neat, as tradition intended, or as an exciting new element in a cocktail. The tasting experience goes beyond the drink itself, and using the correct engraved glasses can help to ensure this ancient recipe is enjoyed as it should be.

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