A new breed of distillers is crafting award-winning artisanal liquors.
Thailand’s mainstream commercial booze production has always stressed quantity over quality, but a new generation of distillers has been garnering attention with original creations.
That said, Thai law continues to restrict small producers from using terms like “rum”, “vodka” and “gin” on domestically distributed products. Patrons will have to be on the lookout for terms like “white spirit”, “fine spirit” or even “engineered alcohol” if they want to sample these potent potables.
Made from Thai sugarcane, this new vodka brand — called “silver spirit” domestically — is expertly distilled using a “secret distilling process” known only to the two Finnish expats who founded it. Just launched in August of 2018, it has already become a staple at hip bars and restaurants such as Revolucion Cocktail and 1881 by Water Library. pulmentum.com
Kristall Thai Spirit
Producing a molasses-based white rum, as well as premium vodka and gin made from organic rice, this beverage company employs Nikolaus Prachensky — of Chiang Mai’s award-winning Edelbrand distillery — as their master distiller. Sample Kristall at bars such as Pink Flamingo and Junker and Bar, plus restaurants such as Taan at Siam@Siam. fb.com/Kristall-Thai-Spirit-333020443918450
Chalong Bay Rum
Named after the bay in Phuket where it has been made since 2012, this award-winning handcrafted rum is distilled from 100% first-press single-variety Thai sugarcane that has been hand-harvested in partnership with local farmers. The Phuket production facility — which is open to the public and includes a bar and bistro — uses centuries-old distillation techniques, as well as a traditional copper still imported from France. Choose from the original or one infused with kaffir lime, sweet basil, lemongrass or cinnamon. Find it at nightspots such as Octave, Vertigo and Oskar Bistro, at select supermarkets such as Tops and Big C and at the duty-free shops in both Bangkok airports. chalongbayrum.com
Lanna Thai Spirit
Launched in early 2019, Lanna is a crystal-clear premium craft spirit made from a blend of Thai jasmine and sticky rice. It is triple-distilled in a copper pot still for maximum flavor, and triple-filtered for purity. Emphasizing quality over quantity, production is limited to just 1,000 bottles per batch. The brand is jointly owned by a fraternity of the region’s top bartenders, so look for it at leading cocktail bars such as Vesper, Rabbit Hole and Libération. fb.com/lannaspirit
Established in 2013, this agricultural initiative in Thailand’s northeastern Issan region operates with sustainability in mind. Founder David Giallorenzo and his team manage the entire process — from growing the organic sugarcane on their plantations, to distilling and bottling the final product — which provides jobs for locals. Look for it at cocktail bars such as Asia Today and Backstage. fb.com/issanrum
Iron Balls Gin
Iron Balls is the brainchild of Australia-born Ashley Sutton, one of Bangkok’s most successful nightspot impresarios. You can visit the official Iron Balls Distillery — also a very cool bar — on Sukhumvit Soi 63 to get a taste of this fusion of coconut water, fruit, Thai herbs and imported juniper berries, or just order it from the bar at the nearby Iron Balls Parlour & Saloon on Sukhumvit Soi 45. fb.com/ironballsdistillery
Once an underground beer-brewing operation, Outlaw released its first batch of gin (white spirit) back in March. This small-batch drop, which mixes juniper, coriander and pomelo zest, now occupies shelf space at The Fat Cow, Dog Step and the LAF Hotel. Later this year, the company hopes to launch its unaged IPA-based white whiskey. fb.com/outlawbrewingloei
This article first appeared in the August 2019 issue of Smile magazine.