| alex @ leotiger.com |
MAY14 ’15 http://bk.asia-city.com/city-living/news/thailand-craft-spirits-liquor-booze 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 in time 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.