Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Essex farmer launches first British grown Baijiu

Published:  13 January, 2020

Baijiu, China’s most popular and enduring spirit, has continued its outward march into international markets over the past year with a new London-based spirits body and a global partnership with Pernod Ricard.

And now it has a variant that is 100% homegrown in the UK.

The product, via Essex farmer Pete Thompson, uses British grown sorghum grains and is launching on January 25 to coincide with Chinese New Year.

Thompson’s Baijiu has been made in partnership with the English Spirit Distillery. Fermentation using enzymes in the traditional way is followed by distillation, which raises the abv to a hefty 50%.

The Thompson family has been growing vegetables for the UK Chinese restaurant sector for three generations.

The fruit grower recently spoke to Harpers about the development of the family’s range of spirits, Reliquum, which has been made from left over food products which would have otherwise gone to waste.

The product is in step with a number of other ‘otherwise discarded’ NPDs that have hit the market recently, including William Grant and Sons’ Discarded coffee vermouth and banana peel rum.

“We’ve always made sloe gin like farming families do from apricots and plums,” said Thompson, who also makes an eau de vie-spiked gin and more recently, a Calvados-inspired apple brandy from apples leftover apples on his Essex orchards.

“We’ve always tried to work holistically. But recently, we’ve been looking at people who are doing all sorts of interesting things with preserves and fermentation. Really, you can do something with everything. With spring onions and cabbage, we could be making kimchi. And now there’s the Baijiu which we’re making out of our sorghum, as most of our core farming business goes to UK restaurants and Chinese supermarkets.”

Baijiu often tops the IWSR and others’ lists as the most-widely drunk spirit in the world thanks almost entirely to its popularity with China’s 1.4 billion-strong population.

It is largely unknown to British palates.

Thompson however believes that there is a growing market in the UK, either as a sipping spirit in the traditional Chinese fashion, or as a cocktail ingredient.

“I would equate it to a really complex mezcal. Ours is smooth and malty and has a real unami flavour,” he said.

Thompson’s Baijiu carries an RRP £45 for 500ml with 50% abv.

It is available to buy online from the website with negotiations for a number on-trade and off-trade stockists currently underway.

For more on the growth of holistic farming and how it is leading to a new ‘upcycled’ drinks category, see the January issue of Harpers.