Spirits & Wine

The Taste of Moutai: China’s Luxury Spirit

It’s been likened to paint thinner, a potent ethyl alcohol in packaging that resembles cleaning fluid or something you pour down the engine of your car. But what does Moutai, the mysterious and luxury clear spirit that dates back to 135 B.C. China, one that is used to entertain world leaders, tastes like?

Moutai is shrouded in mystery, in that very little is written about its origins. The drink takes it name from the Moutai village in the Guizhou province of China, one that sits at 400m above sea level surrounded by mountainous terrain. The spirit is made from sorghum and wheat – the latter is used to stimulate fermentation. The production process takes five years during which it is distilled 9 times and aged in clay pots.

L-R: Moutai PrinceChiew, Moutai Flying Fairy

Charles Leong, Moutai Ambassador recommends that Moutai be enjoyed neat at room temperature, or with a splash of water to appreciate its purity. It works well as an aperitif and stimulates the appetite. As a match to food, it goes well with Chinese cuisine, antipasti as well as sushi and sashimi.

But what does Moutai really tastes like?

Moutai PrinceChiew (53% ABV, aged for 3 years) is sharp on the nose with prominent acetone and ethanol. On first taste, it is reminiscent of a very rough vodka, followed by soy sauce notes. It has a lot of structure in the mid palate but a sharp short finish.

Moutai Flying Fairy (53% ABV, aged for 5 years) has more mellow aromatics and less alcohol on the nose. On the palate, there is less alcohol tingling, with a slightly sweeter flavour and a hint of smoke that becomes evident after a few sips. The soy sauce notes are present and the spirit is much smoother and therefore more approachable to drink. It has a long finish and a pleasant lingering aftertaste that acts as an appetite stimulant.

Moutai may be popular in China but it is undoubtedly an acquired taste. The luxury spirit comes at a price, $90 RRP for Moutai Prince and $295 RRP for the more palatable Moutai Flying Fairy, both in 500ml ceramic bottles. If you think that’s a hefty price, the spirit comes in vintages and you can buy 80 Years Old Vintage Moutai which comes in a purple clay bottle and a carved wooden box. The spirit continues to age in the bottle, and as such, the value of Moutai increases each year which makes it a collector’s item.

Update March 2014: Moutai is now available at the Moutai Sydney Store.

You may also like: Essential Guide to Baijiu


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.