Saturday, March 13, 2010

That was some weird shit

I recently experienced a new landmark moment in the annals of China's rampant booze faking.

You see, time was when they only bothered to fake the highest-selling brands (lower margin, but far greater potential income) and the ones that were easiest to get away with (hence vodka, gin, and light rum were faked far more often than whisky, because it's tough to get the colour of a whisky convincing; they'd usually just do it by slopping in something like caramel, which may deceive the eye easily enough - especially in poor light - but tends to be a bit of a giveaway on the palate). In practice, the high-volume drinks are probably easier to get away with faking, as well as offering the larger market: people who go for these standard drinks are usually pretty undiscriminating (or just plain ignorant, particularly in the case of Chinese drinkers: how else could the aggressively marketed but utterly undistinguished Chivas Regal become a 'luxury' brand in this country, just about the only Scotch - very nearly the only spirit - the locals will drink?); or they're too damn drunk to notice what shite they're drinking, or to complain about it if they do; and most of the time they're drinking their spirits with a lot of mixer, which will cover up a multitude of sins. Even Chivas is traditionally drunk by the Chinese heavily diluted with the local soft drink of heavily-sweetened 'green tea', which masks all but the most toxic impurities. Hence, Chivas is one of the mostly widely faked brands (well, I don't drink the stuff myself; but I'm told by friends who do that in bars and clubs here it is almost invariably fake).

However, back in the 'good old days' when I first arrived here, outside of Russian vodka and Chivas, there wasn't a lot of fake booze about. The slightly more exotic clear spirits were the next to start becoming widely faked - especially Bacardi rum, which is another of those brands that I now make a point of avoiding, for safety's sake. But for a long time, the worst that you had to fear of a whisky was that it might have been watered down a bit.

When whisky faking did start becoming really widespread 4 or 5 years ago, it was confined to a few high-selling brands: Jameson's is the one I'm wariest of.

Jack Daniel's, although a big seller, would always, I fondly hoped, be passed over by this evil trade, because its flavour is just too darned distinctive - the heavy charcoal, the maple sweetness: you really can't approximate that; at least, not sufficiently well to fool anyone who's ever drunk it before.... not unless they're absolutely drowning it in Coke (and if they're doing that, I have no sympathy for them: they deserve to have their livers blown apart).

But a week or so ago..... I ordered a JD in a favourite bar and found that the bottle contained an odd mixture of raw alcohol, brown food colouring, and..... well, orange Curaçao, I would guess. Yes, they'd tried to mimic the characteristic soothing sweetness of the world's favourite bourbon (or 'American whiskey', if you insist, Cowboy) with something ORANGEY!!!!

How could that ever work, even with the drowning-it-in-Coke crowd??

'Tis a strange country, to be sure. Constant vigilance is called for.


stuart said...

Let the records show that I came here looking for a Mary.

Froog said...

St Patrick's isn't until Wednesday, Stuart. 'Timebomb' post.