Wagga Wagga isn’t the most obvious candidate for a World Baijiu Day party. Until you learn the campus of Charles Sturt University based in that Australian city has AU$1.5 million in funding from Grains Research and Development Corporation to study sorghum, a crucial ingredient in most baijiu.
Siong Tan, a postdoctoral research fellow at the school’s Functional Grains Centre, was the organizing force behind an August 9 baijiu event with a seminar, tasting and exhibits.
“Wagga Wagga is probably the only ‘not big’ city on the WBD list,” says Tan. “You probably have never heard of Wagga Wagga until now.”
Tan has a keen interest in baijiu given his research.
“I work on the baijiu module,” says Tan. “It looks at the suitability of Australian sorghum for baijiu production. I characterise the fermentation performance of a few local sorghum varieties. In brief, we try to identify the variety that’s best for baijiu production.”
The event included Chris Blanchard, professor in Food Science, talking about the sorghum initiative. Then a baijiu tasting led Anthony Saliba, professor in psychology and also part of the project.
Two dozen tasters tried four baijius: Jiangxiaobai (light aroma), Maotai (sauce aroma) and Luzhou Laojiao and YangHe (strong aroma), all sourced from alcohol chain Dan Murphy’s. Jim Beam Bourbon was used to contrast with the baijiu.
“It was good fun,” says Tan. “I like to see the shocking expressions from my guests when they were doing the tasting.” And their reactions?
“Oh god, that’s strong,” “It’s so full of flavour”, “I like baijiu! Thank you for showing us the good stuff!” and “This one (Yanghe) is going to be my favourite spirit now” were a few comments overheard.
Guests could also check exhibits on the baijiu-making process, bottle design and novelty ideas, from cocktails to ice cream, created for World Baijiu Day. Different sorghum varieties, including ones from before and after fermentation, were available to see, touch and sniff. And the guests had yet another tasty experience: dumplings, spring rolls and dim sum.
“This inaugural baijiu event in Wagga Wagga focused on an ‘experience baijiu’ theme,” stated Tan. “Guests were introduced to baijiu through all five senses.”
Inaugural? Sounds like some more baijiu fun will be in the works.
(Thanks to Siong Tan for the info and the photos.)