How many of these rums from Southeast Asia have you tried?
Which plant is synonymous with the tropics? Mango? Coconut? Pineapple? Try sugar cane. It’s World Rum Day on July 10, 2021, or the second Saturday of July each year. When the idea of the tropical getaway is raised, Southeast Asia instantly comes to mind. Why not to love about this culturally diverse region teeming with the friendliest people, most delectable cuisines, beaches with powdery sand and turquoise waters to frolic in.
While the Caribbeans might be more famous for its endless selection of rums. This spirit distilled most commonly from molasses is gaining popularity in Southeast Asia as microbreweries sprout out from the sun-kissed Phuket, Thailand to Bali, Indonesia – the Island of the Gods. Manta Rum is only going to get better. In the charming Phuket Old Town, where narrows streets are lined with dive bars located in eccentric shop lots built upon Sino-Portuguese architecture, locavores and bartenders have discovered Thai rums and tapped into their wondrous versatility to concoct cocktails that aren’t found anywhere else.
Over in Malaysia, the Jungle Bird, a national cocktail whose provenance is thought to be at the old KL Hilton, is a medley of rum and fruit juices, among others, pineapple and lime. In the Philippines, there are at least 7 rum brands. Tanduay is among the world’s best-selling rum brands and was founded over 150 years ago.
Here’s a selection of rums from Southeast Asia to add to your cellarette.
Images by respective brands
From the island nation of Indonesia, Nusa Caña Rum started as a passion project to reawaken a forgotten Indonesia heritage. In centuries past, Indonesian rum was once a luxury for passing traders who descended on the region’s many islands for spice trade. Among the ingredients of Nusa Caña Rum are molasses yielded from Javanese sugar cane and wild yeast obtained from locally grown dried red rice. The spirit is then matured in Javanese teak wood barrels for a unique aroma reminiscent of the locale it was distilled.
Sustainably produced, Chalong Bay Rum is a marriage of organic Thai first-press sugar cane juice and French distillation techniques. With Phuket now reopened to tourists, pay a visit to the distillery located in the eponymous bay to discover how it is made in person. Driven by popular demand, the distillery is adding vapour-infused expressions to the base range to include aromatics familiar to the Thai palate such as lemongrass and kaffir lime.
Known as Thai whisky among locals, Mekhong is technically rum. Although it has been regarded as the national spirit of Thailand, Mekhong can trace its storied origins to decades earlier when the government was contemplating raising funds through the sale of spirits. Today, it is distilled primarily from molasses with negligible traces of glutinous rice, before it is blended with a spice/herbal mix to infuse a distinctive flavour that makes it a brilliant ingredient to many a cocktail.
Handcrafted in Thailand, the secret of Phraya Rum lies in the pure water obtained from the Tha Chin river snaking its way through central Thailand and molasses produced by canes lining its banks. The spirit is then allowed to mellow for years in charred American oak barrels to impart flavour and colour. The end result permeates with whiffs of honey, vanilla and coconut.
A single-island rum from the Philippines, Don Papa Rum is created on the fertile foothills of the unforgiving Mount Kanlaon, an active volcano in the Western Visayas region. The name is a tribute to Papa Isio, a charismatic leader from Negros who, in the 1890s, helped drive the Spanish from the island and gain independence for Sugarlandia. Today, it counts 7 expressions, including Don Papa 10, whose final 3 years prior to bottling were spent in re-charred ex-American bourbon oak barrels.
Not available in Malaysia