Tropical and citrus and stone fruit. Pineapple and lemon and peach. Banana and orange and plum. The kind of fruits you might see cited in baijiu tasting notes.
So, I visited my local Beijing market to load up on a rainbow color’s worth of fruit for a taste test with three bottles of Luzhou Laojiao that recently arrived. (See my review here.)
I tried 10 fruits against those three spirits, which meant 30 sips, plus a few extra in the name of double-checking. Then repeated that taste test for two more nights. Given this, the results should be deemed as created under the influence. Which also means you best fruit up and do your own experiments.
For the record, my lineup featured banana, mango, dragon fruit, melon, peach, kiwi, mangosteen, plum, orange and lemon. Plus three baijius from Luzhou Laojiao, all made in Sichuan and fitting into the strong aroma category (More about these strong aroma baijius here.)
My methodology was quite simple. Take a bite of fruit, take a sip of baijiu, give a score, take a sip of water, move on to the next fruit. I scored the pairings in three categories: ‘nope’ (1.0 to 3.9 points), ‘okay’ (4.0 to 6.9 points) and ‘yep’ (7.0 to 10.0 points).
There are lots of factors that can impact such a tasting:
- Fruit ripeness: as an example, the plum was quite ripe while the peach was the opposite.
- Tasting order: do I try one fruit versus three baijius, then move on to the next fruit? Or try all ten fruits versus one baijiu, then move on to the next baijiu?
- Tipsiness level: the more you sip, the more your judgement might go astray.
- Plus, factors like timing (I did my tastings post-midnight after work), experience (I am a newbie to fruit and baijiu pairing!), and so on.
Anyway, a few observations.
Overall, I didn’t have many “wow” moments given how intense the baijius are against the fruits one-on-one. This isn’t surprising when you consider strong aroma baijius are seen to complement the often spicy peppercorn-amped local cuisine of Sichuan.
I found the plum most interesting for pairing. It has sweet flesh that could easily be overwhelmed by the baijiu except it was saved by the intensity of the skins, by both their tartness and tannins.
The kiwi, with both sweet and sour elements, also did relatively well across all three baijius, though the Antique Edition baijiu (brown bottle) was borderline. In general, those fruits that had both sweetness and tartness, like the mangosteen, did okay,
The lemon was also interesting. It could handle the baijiu’s intensity–in fact, it cleaned much of the flavor away, much like after doing a shot of tequila. That won’t be ideal for fans of savoring these baijius but might appeal to those who struggle with ganbei sessions!
In terms of individual baijius, I found Ming River did best with fruits with some sweetness and light bodies, such as the mangosteen, melon and dragon fruit.
The funkier Antique Edition did okay with the mango. And while none of the baijius were a great match for the banana, this one was the best of the bunch.
And that intense fruity 1573 with lots of sweetness up front? My scores for that were all over the place, although both the plum and kiwi did well all three nights. I also found a few hits with the mango, peach and orange, making the 1573 the most versatile of the three baijius. To be clear, such pairings aren’t cases of a baijiu and fruit harmoniously melting into each other’s arms — they are more like two rowdy types who can get along.
In the end, such pairings aren’t to be taken too seriously, but are more of a fun game to play with friends, That’s what I’m going to do next time–get some friends together for another taste test, one that expands our universe of fruits to include durian, pineapple, figs, star fruit and more. At the very least, we’ll have lots of fun and get lots of vitamins.