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It may be China's national spirit, but for London bartender Ellie Veale it's clear from the first swig why baijiu has not caught on overseas.Yet baijiu's popularity in China has propelled demand – making it the most consumed spirit in the world, and its major producers the most valuable distilleries globally.Ranging from around 35 to 55 percent alcohol, baijiu packs a searing, sickly-sweet punch, an intensity that evolved to match the powerfully spicy cuisine of southwestern China, baijiu's heartland.Around 10.8 billion liters of baijiu was consumed last year, nearly all in China, according to International Wine and Spirit Research.That's more than whisky, vodka, gin, rum and tequila combined and would take an hour to slosh over Niagara Falls, according to WorldBaijiuDay.com.Water, soil, climate and other factors make baijius from different regions as "different from each other as a whisky is to a mescal," said Bill Isler, CEO of Ming River, an export-only brand created by Luzhou Laojiao.But he says there is a "lot of prejudice" to overcome, before baijiu can follow once-obscure "local" spirits such as vodka and tequila and go global.
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