Wu Liang Ye
104 Proof – Baijiu
Approx. $99.99 500ml
Our good friend Paul recently returned from a trip out of the country and brought us yet another bottle that we had never heard of. Most of the writing on it was in Chinese except for the name and another small phrase that said “Chinese Famous Liquor.” At first glance I thought it was just a cheap bottle that he picked up at the airport, but after doing a little research on it, I found out that I was completely wrong. It’s apparently super expensive and very popular in China. It’s also technically a completely different type of liquor called Baijiu.
When I first saw the bottle I was very weary of trying it. I originally assumed it was just some Chinese moonshine that was going to taste like rubbing alcohol and melt the lining of my stomach. After seeing the price tag I was a little relieved and not quite as reluctant to try it. Also seeing that it was one of the most popular baijiu’s (even though I didn’t know what that was until I wiki’ed it) helped ease my fears. So I poured some unmixed in my glass and gave it a go.
Before you even get the glass to your mouth, you can smell a very fragrant floral smell, almost like a perfume. It didn’t seem too overpowering at the time, but I’m damn near nose-blind so that’s not saying much. Apparently from what Jeff told me the next day, he could smell it in the other room, but he said it reminded him of someone cooking something sweet.
Once I took my first sip, all hell broke loose. It burned everywhere. As soon as it touched my lips, instant burn, and then it continued melting everything it touched from my tongue, to the back of my throat, and all the way down to the bottom of the belly. My first thought was “What the fuck is wrong with China and why is this so popular?” One good thing though, is even though the burn was intense, it was also short lived. Another bad thing though, is that the floral perfume scent I mentioned earlier, really shows up in the aftertaste, and I really really don’t like any botanical flavors in my liquor.
Normally I would have stopped there and called it quits, but I had to write something about this bottle because I had nothing else to choose from, so I took a second sip. This time my lips didn’t burn, most likely because all of my nerve endings were dead, and I got a little bit of sweetness on the tip of the tongue. That was short lived though as I’m sure a fire started in the back of my mouth and continued all the way down. Luckily, I had a soda close by to douse some of the flames.
Because I’m apparently really into destroying my mouth, I took a final sip to finish my cup. At this point the burn started to become more reasonable, as I was starting to somehow get used to it. The throat and belly still burned a little too long, but now I was getting a lot more sweetness before that. I can’t really place it, but it seems like a sweet rice flavor. Even though it was getting better and better the more I drank it, I was not fond of the floral aftertaste and it still burns a bit too much to be enjoyable.
I decided to mix it with a little soda in my next glass hoping to cut down the burn. I was pretty surprised by the fact that the burn almost completely vanished, but then immediately let down by how overly sweet it tasted. Oh and that flowery perfume aftertaste was still there, so that made it even worse. Honestly, I preferred burning burning the hell out of my mouth and drinking it straight, over this new sweet flower drink I concocted.
I figured soda was not the best thing to mix this with so I looked around for something else to combine with it. I ended up with some Welch’s Starfruit Kiwi juice. This just happened to be way better than soda and blended very well. Even thought it was an upgrade, it was not enough because it still seemed like someone poured a splash of perfume in my drink to spice it up. It looks like there is no way to hide it, and for me it’s a big deal breaker. If you took that away, I could definitely drink this, but since I was unable get rid of it, I decided to call it a night.
Why this bottle is so expensive and so popular is beyond me. Hell, the fact that a bottle can be this expensive, and still called popular (At one point Wu Liang Ye was responsible for almost half of the baijiu sold) blows my mind. Maybe if you really like a floral or botanical liquor, then this bottle might be what you’re looking for, if not, I would highly recommend that you stay away. Or maybe you were contemplating about getting a few new stomach ulcers, and think the esophagus is a really overrated organ, then by all means, go grab a bottle and start chugging away.