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|Literal meaning||sorghum liquor|
Kaoliang liquor, Gaoliang liquor or Sorghum liquor is a strong distilled liquor of Chinese origin made from fermented sorghum. It is a type of light-aroma Baijiu. The liquor originates from Dazhigu (大直沽, located east of Tianjin), first appearing in the Ming Dynasty and is widely consumed across northern China in provinces such as Hebei, Shaanxi, and Shandong. It is primarily made and sold in the China and Taiwan and is also popular in Korea, where it is called goryangju (hangul: 고량주; hanja: 高粱酒) or bbaegal (which originates from the Chinese character 白乾). Kaoliang ranges usually between 38 and 63 percent alcohol by volume. At present, world's highest alcohol content of kaoliang liquor is up to 92% produced by Chyi Leh Wei Distillery (Chinese: 琪樂薇酒廠) in Taiwan.
Famous brands from Taiwan
Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor is one of the most popular brands of kaoliang in Taiwan. As its name indicates, it is produced on the island of Kinmen. The mainstays of the range are the standard 58 percent and 38 percent alcohol bottlings. Kinmen's kaoliang production traces its roots back to the Chinese Civil War when Chinese nationalist general Hu Lien encouraged Kinmenese farmers to grow sorghum to produce hard liquor as importing alcohol from Taiwan caused financial strain. Kaoliang liquor has become an integral part of Kinmen's economy and plays a significant role in the culture of Kinmen.
Yusan Kaoliang Chiew (Chinese: 玉山高粱酒; pinyin: Yùshān Gāoliáng Jiǔ) is produced by the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation. It is named after the highest mountain in Taiwan, Yushan. One of the most notable products in the range is an "X.O." kaoliang aged for five years in tanks before bottling.
Matsu Tunnel 88 Kaoliang Liquor (Chinese: 馬祖八八坑道高粱酒; pinyin: Bā Bā Kēngdào Gāoliáng Jiǔ) is produced by the Matsu Distillery in Nangan Township, Lienchiang County. The name is derived from the name of an abandoned military tunnel called Tunnel 88 which the distillery took over as storage space for their kaoliang and aged rice wine. All of the distillery's aged kaoliangs are stored in the tunnel for at least five years.
In popular culture
- The 1987 Zhang Yimou film Red Sorghum is set in a rural kaoliang distillery in the Shandong province of China.
- The fictional character Li Kao, from Barry Hughart's award-winning novels Bridge of Birds, The Story of the Stone, and Eight Skilled Gentlemen, is named after kaoliang; his mother died in childbirth while requesting a last drink, and the abbot attending the birth mistook the syllables "Kao...li...kao..." as her intended name for the child. In Bridge of Birds, while telling the story of his birth, Li Kao describes kaoliang as "the finest paint thinner and worst wine ever invented".
- Kaoliang is an important catalyst of the action in the story "New Year's Eve" in Taiwanese writer Pai Hsien-yung's short story collection Taipei People.
- Korean goryangju is produced in both North and South Korea, but Koreans also consume Chinese-produced and Taiwanese-produced kaoliang.
- China (Taiwan), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of (2011-03-18). "Kaoliang serves Kinmen a tasty future". Taiwan Today. Retrieved 2020-06-12.