Baijiu: Made in America

Updated: 2015-07-13 14:52

(China Daily USA)

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Said to be the only baijiu made entirely in the United States, Vinn Baijiu is made from brown rice in Portland, Oregon. The family patriarch, Phan Ly, brought his seven-generation-old recipe to the US when he moved his ethnically Chinese family from Vietnam in 1979. "Vinn" is the common middle name of his five children, who now run the business and produce mijiu (rice liquor), baijiu and vodka that's sold in the US Pacific Northwest. His daughter Michelle Ly talks about what it takes to sell baijiu in America.

Your alcohol level is 40 percent. Compared to about 55 percent in China, is that reduction key to appealing to Western drinkers?

We still don't know, but baijiu is already so unfamiliar to the Western drinkers. We thought that bringing the alcohol-by-volume down to match the market would make it much more palatable.

Are cocktails the way to market baijiu products to non-Chinese?

It seems to be the way the Western drinkers prefer their spirits. So often, we will introduce our baijiu in a cocktail to new customers. However, we do explain how baijiu is traditionally drank and some of our customers have adopted that style.

Did you always like baijiu?

There are many brands and styles of baijiu out there. Some are really good and some go against our palates. Because our family has been making baijiu from rice for so long, that is the style we prefer.

Will you be involved in any World Baijiu Day events?

We are currently trying to coordinate an event in Portland.

What do Oregonians have to say about baijiu?

At first, it was tough to get people to try it, but now that we have been out promoting it for four years, the responses are much better. Baijiu is still unknown to the masses - it will take time and a large marketing budget to make baijiu a familiar spirit on the shelves.

China Daily

(China Daily USA 07/13/2015 page8)