Monday, March 4, 2013

Baijiu? Mijiu? Trying New Things at Vinn Distillery


If you have not taken the stroll around Portland's Distillery Row, I highly recommend it. This up and coming section of SE Portland is filled with recycled industrial buildings with a broad range of businesses - restaurants, information technology, shops, bookstores, theaters, and, well, distilleries. I wrote about a number of the Distillery Row businesses last year when my friend Jen came up from Utah, so I am going to highlight one of the newest additions to this spirited crew (see what I did there?!?) - Vinn Distillery.

Owned and operated by the Ly family, Vinn's distillery is in Wilsonville, and has recently opened up their Distillery Row tasting room location. Walking in the most striking aspect of the space is the walls behind the counter lined with beautiful bottles of Vodka, Baijiu, and Mijiu. If you have not heard of the second two on the list, you are in good company. I knew nothing about Chinese spirits until arriving at Vinn.

Baijiu is an ancient Chinese beverage that literally translates as "white liquor." Like vodka it can be made from many different grains, and the folks at Vinn use rice. Our tasting room hosts explained that Baijiu is an everyday beverage in that it is used for EVERYTHING. Doing business, honoring ancestors, hosting guests, mixing name it, Baijiu probably has a place in it. We were told that there are over 18,000 places that make Baijiu in China (I have not had time to count them all), and only 1 in the United States. The Baijiu was both sweet and sour, silky in mouth taste, and lacked some of the acid aftertaste I associate with rice spirits. We were treated also to a Baijiu bloody mary, which was excellent.

The Mijiu was equally interesting. Vinn boats two kinds - one made with brown rice, and the other with black. Mijiu Ice (guess which rice) was lightly sweet with sour notes and a very floral nose. Mijiu Fire was darker and spicier with the same sour flavors. I liked both very much, and would definitely sip them neat or perhaps on the rocks. Their flavors are fairly delicate, so I don't recommend mixing with too much, but I think both would make a lovely spritzer with seltzer and lime.

Thanks to our hosts, and to the wonderful distillers who decided to bring a wonderful Chinese spirit to the Pacific Northwest!


  1. As somebody who has only had the ultra cheap "commoner" form of baijiu, what you're describing sounds like a completely different concoction. What I had tasted like flammable kool-aid.

  2. Oh this was lovely! I brought home a bottle of the black rice Maiju - come visit and we will crack it!