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4: Chinese Distilled Spirits
4.1 Classification of Modern Chinese Spirits
Chinese spirits have been distilled mainy from fermented cereals.Other types of distilled drinks also include brandy made from the fermented grape wine and whisky from beer.
In ancient times, the distilled alcoholic drinks were called "Shao Jiu" or "Gao Liang Jiu" in Chinese pronunciation. After the founding of People's Republic of China, the term `Chinese Spirit' replaced the old names 'Shao Jiu' and 'Sorghum Spirit' used widely before. Because of the varieties of raw-materials used and different processes adopted in the production of spirits from place to place, each type of distilled spirit has its distincted aroma and flavor feature, the classification of spirits are complicated.
Systems for Classifying Chinese Spirits
┌─ According to Qu used in Fermentation
├─ According to the Types of Aroma and Flavour
├─ According to the Fermentation States
├─ According to the Quality
├─ According to the Ethanol Content
└─ According to the Raw Materials
As mentioned previously, Qu is a kind of saccharifying andfermenting agent for brewing. The Qu has a singnificant impact on the aroma and flavour of spirits.
Da Qu, as the saccharifying and fermenting agent, was used in the fermentation of spirits. The raw materials for Da Qu mainly are wheat and/or barley mixed with pea. There are three types of Da Qu according to the incubation temperature during their cultivation: medium teperature Da Qu, high temperature Da Qu, and super-high temperature Da Qu. they are incubated normally in a solid state. Most of Da Qu spirits are of fine quality, so the most famous spirits in China nearly are all manufactured with Da Qu as the saccharifying and the fermenting agent. Sichuang Province, Gui Zhou Province, Sanxi Province, Shanxi Province and JIangsu Province have been traditional productioncenters of Da Qu spirits.
Xiao Qu is a type of saccharifying and fermenting agent made from rice, and the raw material for Xiao Qu spirits is also rice grain, and the fermentation is conducted in semi-solid state. Most of XIAO Qu spirits are produced and consumed in South China.
The so called Fu Qu is a type of mold cultured in solid medium using bran as the raw material. The process of Fu Qu spirits was developed from the advanced "Yantai Spirit Process" after the founding of the People's Republic of China. Aspergillus sp. and yeasts are grown in pure culture respectively, and inoculated to cooked or steamed raw materials. The production process is characterized by short fermentation time and low production cost. Fu Qu spirits are the most popular distilled drinks for the common people because of their low prices. The output of Fu Qu spirit is the biggest in China.
Some famous spirits are produced with both Da Qu and Xiao Qu. For example, the semi-solid mash fermented with Xiao Qu is distilled, and the resulting hot vapours pass through the solid-state fermenting grain by Da Qu (called "flavorous fermenting grains), so the mixture hot vapours are collected as potable drinks.
This classification system is based on the major aroma and flavour character. And it is used for classifying spirits in the appraisal of the distilled spirit quality organized by the government official.
Maotai Spirit, manufactured in Maotai, Gui Zhou Province, has beenone of the most famous spirit since the begining of this century. So the Maotai-flavour has been recognized as a typical flavour.It is called soy sauce flavor type. The main characteristics of this type's spirits are gentle and soy sauce flavor. Its fermentation technique is the most complex, and Da Qu used in the production process mostly is the super high temperature Da Qu.
Luzhou-flavour spirit has been the most acceptable distilled spirit in China. Among the well-known distilled spirits, the output of Luzhou flavor type's spirits is the biggest. Spirits produced in Sichuan Province, Jiangsu Province and other areas belong to this Luzhou-flvor type. Luzhou-flavour spirit is also called "Highly Flavor Type Spirit". "Luzhou Spirit" manufactured by Luzhou Distillery, Sicuang Province has been accepted as a classical representative. Its features are highly flavored, sweet and refreshing. The raw materials are mainly Chinese Sorghum combined with wheat, barley, and rice. The production process are characterized by cyclic fermentation of the mixture of newly added grains with old fermented grains, the complex process of distillation of the fermenting grain combined with the process of cooking of newly added grains, and the characterized fermentation vessels (old fermentation pit)
Fen-flavor spirit is a type of light flavor spirit. Fen spirit produced by Xinghua Cun Fenjiu Corporation, Shanxi Province is recognized as the representative of this type.Its aroma and flavour characteristics are summerized as light aroma and flavor, a pure and refreshingly smooth, sweet taste, and mellow with lingering aromatic aftertaste. The manufacture process is characterized by fermenting the grains in ceramic pots half mounted beneath the ground. After the fermenting grains is distilled, the distilled grain is refermented once more, then refermented grain is distilled. the collected spirits from the first distillation process and the second distillation process are aged separatly. the spent grain after second distillation is used as feed.
Rice-flavour spirits are distilled spirit made from rice with XiaoQu ( rice Qu) as saccharifying and fermenting agent.Their productionareas have been centered in South China. "Shanhua Spirit" produced by Guilin Beverage Plant, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is the typical representative, Its flavour is characterized by elegant sweet aroma, smooth on entering the mouth and refreshing in taste.
In the National Appraisals of Alcoholic Beverages, Some distilled spirits whose character aroma and flavour are temporarily difficult to be identified are called Other-flavour Spirit in which a number of National Famous Spirits are included. the main representatives are "Xifeng Spirit" produced in Xifeng Distillery, Shanxi Province, "Dong Spirit" by Dongjiu Distillery of Zunyi City, Guizhou Province. Their aroma and flavor are different from each other. The production techniques combined together some techniques used in Maitai Distilery, Luzhou Distillery and Xinghua Cun Fenjiu Corporation.
The most widely used production process for distilled spirits issolid-state fermentation with the moisture content of fermenting grainscovering about 60%. The Da Qu spirit, Fu Qu spirit and Xiao Qu
spirit are produced in this way. Most high quality spirits must be produced insolid-state fermentation. It takes longer fermentation time to obtainhigh quality spirits.
Traditionally, the semi-solid state fermentation wea used widelyfor production of rice wines. The spirits is just distilled from the semi-solid state fermented mash. Most spirits produced from rice grainin South China are produced in this process.
The production process is similar with the process for alcohol production, but is combined with some traditional techniques. The quality of the spirit produced in this procedure is lower than that produced in solid-state fermentation. In some distilleries, aromatic yeast is added to the fermentation mash to remedy this shortcoming.
In this way, usually the fermenting grains in solid state is placed on the perforated plate inside the steamer, and the liquid state fermented mash is placed in the cauldron above which the steameris mounted. During distillation, the hot vapour resulting from theliquid-state mash pass through the upper layers of fermented grain and some aromatic components in it is distilled.
Liqueurs are manufactured by blending edible alcohol with flavoring substances, and specially prepared blending spirit.
Tthe central government has organized five "National Appraisals ofAlcoholic Beverages for the representative products of all the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities since 1953. For example, In the first appraisal held in 1953, eight kinds of alcoholic beverages(including Chinese spirits, rice wine, beer and wines) were awarded the title" Natioal Famous Drink" ( top quality) drink) . The title "National Fine-Quality Drinks" was awarded to other higher quality drinks.
Maotai Spirit, Fen Spirit, Luzhou Spirit and Wuliangyie Spirit all are recognized as National Famous Spirits in five national spirit's appraisal meetings.
Most of spirits are normal which have a low price and are welcome by common customers. And some of them also are of high quality.
This kind of spirits were traditionally produced and consumed inlarge quantities in the North China where it is colder. Their alcohol content is more than 41% (v/v), and most of them are higher than 50%(v/v) but less than 65% (v/v).
This kind of spirits are manufactured with the dilluting technique to low alcohol content. The alcohol content is about 38% (v/v), and some is about 20% (v/v).