Spirit hunters, a Paris France based alcohol app and website, asked me to speak about my current spirit projects but I said that they are works-in-progress due to Byzantine Thai laws*. Instead, I suggested that we experience general hot topic issues such as street food and illegal brews in Thailand, particularly demonstrating how in the kingdom illegal can become legal (black to white) and vice versa. I also showed them many videos and articles such as Cole's and from BK-Mag: https://youtu.be/dR7l-O3eHb0, http://bk.asia-city.com/tags/street-food, https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B95Jr8n6zNCqWGNXdVZUVVc0V1U
* Foreigners like myself working on chalong bay (“rum agricole”), iron balls (“gin”), isan (“rum”), nikkii (various), lamai (“rum”), etc. could only apply for a local village level distillery license with Thai partners. Though we have achieved some local and international recognition, we remain tiny as Thai Excise restricts us to producing "white spirits" using 5hp total heat/electrical energy and 7 staff. In no way would we ever compete with the local liquor behemoth Thai bev. On the brewing side, no craft beer maker is allowed to mount challenges against local duopoly Thai bev (chang, federbrau) or boonrawd (singha and leo) via brewing licensing restrictions and – worse – distribution bundling and other barriers to market access.
Drink Local is coming up guys! A whole weeks worth of events, workshops, master classes and guest shifts! Come out and support Thailand’s very own local spirits! Check out our website at www.drinklocalth.com to stay updated on events throughout the week. Win yourself a trip to 3 day trip to Phuket complete with a tour of the beautiful Chalong Bay Distillery & Bar Distillery! Simply by taking a picture of your Drink Local drinks, post it on instagram with the hashtag #drinklocalth. The pic with the most likes come the 25th of November wins! #drinklocalth #chalongbayrums #malaithaispirits #threemonkeysrum #kristal #issanrums #grandmajinn #ironball
The background: The experimental collaboration between Bootleggers and the maker of small-batch rums Lamoon and Lamai, sees the use of local ingredients including safflower on its sugarcane base.
We say: This one smells very strong, rough and earthy on the nose. Quite a contrast from any gin you might be familiar with. The taste is again very sweet, incorporating fresh juices that remind us of cachaca (Brazilian rum, a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice). You might not recognize it as gin.
The G&T mix: East Imperial Burma Tonic water garnished with grapes and torched rosemary.
JUN ’15 http://wineandabout.com/profiles/distilling-thailand Article by Alexander Eeckhout
Lamai Thai Rum White Spirit Bangkok Thailand
Since we reported about the craft beer scene in the land of the smiles, a piece about local spirits is due. You are already familiar with Sang Som and Hong Thong. The rest is Johnnie Walker marching into Isan weddings and upscale nightclubs. All a bit bland.
Yet, the liquor scene is growing more exciting. Well crafted cocktails are popular as are the premium spirits they’re made with. Enters, the Thai distiller.
Thai people are artisans and this is no exception when it comes to food and beverages. They have talent when it comes to creating flavour experiences. It’s engrained in their DNA. When craft beers became popular they started making it themselves regardless of any laws. This is the same for spirits. As of now there are a couple of smaller, locally produced spirits of high quality available in bars and supermarkets. One of those is Lamai Thai Rum.
We spoke to Alex Chou, one of the people behind the rum. Alex works for one of Thailand’s top rice processors and exporters. During the same time he tries to promote the local artisan food and beverage production. When Thai cousins Kaustav Bagchi and Chris Sabdasen started making rum he decided to take part.
Lamai Thai Rum is made from 100% locally grown sugarcane. It’s distilled under a “village distillery license” which allows for local home distilleries to produce “white spirits”.
Lamai Thai Rum has won an award already and is available in Bangkok’s better bars as well as at Villa and King Power. Their latest creation, Lamoon Rum, is not commercially available but finds it way in the cocktails of places like WTF and Seven spoons.
Next to Lamai Thai Rum, Alex started Bespoke Distillery. A craft distillery specialising in made-to-order spirits for premium bars and restaurants. Bespoke Distillery is also aiming to set up production to please the large demand for brown spirits in the region.
Alex’ mission is to contribute to the depth, variety and enjoyment of flavours. Something we can only praise and encourage. And luckily he’s not alone. Maa Jai Dum, Koh Samui Rum and Chalong Bay Rum all seem to share the same mission.
Thailand seems to have great potential for producing premium spirits. Let’s hope legislators see this too. Thailand is good at flavour, it’s time to capitalise on it.
Lamai Thai Rum White Spirit Bangkok Thailand
By Vasachol Quadri | May 15, 2015
The last 12 months have seen a craft beer boom in Thailand, not only in the form of topnotch imported bottles, but also in the growth of a genuine small-scale craft brewing scene. But while Bangkok’s underground ales are still technically illegal, the law isn’t so hostile towards local spirit-makers. Unlike beer, the country has a long history of homemade white spirits production, especially in rural areas, but it wasn’t until 2003 that the Thailand Liquor Act gave small producers and households the right to legally produce “fermented or distilled alcohol.” However, this only applies to white spirits (dark rum is still illegal) and labels aren’t allowed to specifically say vodka or rum (only “white spirits”). Nevertheless, Thailand’s small-batch spirits movement is starting to diversify and, more importantly, impress.
The story: Founded in 2012 by Taiwanese-American Alex Chou and his Thai partners Kaustav Bagchi and Chris Sabdasen, Lamai is a rum brand based in Lampun province in the North of Thailand. You can expect extra attention to detail: not only do they use 100-percent sugarcane, but all of it is sourced from a farm in the province, while the rum comes in a classy ceramic bottle made in Lampang’s famous ceramic village. Lamai premium rum is made using a double-distilled method, which makes for a smoother drink.
Where to find it in Bangkok: Lamai retails for B550 available at Villa Market and King Power. You can open a bottle (330ml only) at Junker & Bar (454 Suan Phlu Soi 1, 085-100-3608) for B900. The bar also uses the brand’s Lamoon rum in cocktails, but this variation is not commercially available.
Follow them at: www.lamaithaispirits.com
Alex Chou, co-founder of Lamai Thai Rum
Why did you start making rum?
Actually, it started with two cousins, Kaustav Bagchi and Chris Sabdasen, making rum at home illegally. I’ve been working as an executive at one of Thailand's top rice processors and exporters, trying to promote local artisanal food and beverage production. I saw the potential of pushing locally-produced Thai spirits. So we started ramping up investment and applied for a license, finally becoming legal in 2014 to launch properly.
What’s the legal situation like in Thailand?
Our products are legal under a "village distillery license" for Lampun, under which our products must be labelled “white spirits,” not rum, vodka or gin. We all want the law changed, so we can have better products and possibly cheaper beers and spirits made by local producers. And I’d love to make local whiskies—I’m trained and certified by the UK International Brewing and Distilling Institute.
What’s next for you?
Chris and I, along with some other industry friends, recently started Bespoke Distiller, another craft distillery that will specialize in made-to-order spirits. On one hand, we plan to make handcrafted niche products for premium bars and restaurants; on the other, we hope to set up production to satisfy the huge brown spirits market within ASEAN+3.
MAR 10 ’15:
Enlightened Inebriation: The Bitter Truth
(Text: Trevor Ranges – Photography: Christopher Wise – Spirits: WTF Cafe & Gallery, Joseph Marinari, and Alex Chou)
“Moving on to gin-based cocktails, we started with a pair of gin martinis with Alex’s homemade hooch in one glass and Gordons in the other. As mentioned in the magazine article and seconded by Chris, early recipes of the martini featured orange bitters: in ours, Hella Bitters Citrus. The bitters were more noticeable with the less complex Gordons than with Alex’s gin as the latter features a more complex and robust combination of spices in its creation, including lavender, all of which overpowered the subtle citrus bitters.”