Product of:  Thailand
Aged:  Undeclared 
Price: $30
Alcohol: 35% ABV 
Sugar: 0-5g/L (estimate)
Context: Flavored/Spiced Rum 
RG Rating:  6

Tasting Notes 
Smooth.  While Mekhong shows the attractive color of a rum that could be aged in oak for 8 years or more is, discussing it is the folly of a novice because the tone comes from caramel and spices added to a neutral spirit.  They got that part right though, as it beads up nicely and shows long thin legs in a tasting glass.  And at first sniff, it smells like rum too, with sweet caramel, added vanilla, nutmeg, citrus highlights and fresh waxy woody phenols wafting out of the alcohol.  Those adulterated aromas are well doctored.  A neat sip reveals a medium-lightweight bodied rum, with spice flavors and sweetness so mild they allow the undertone of distilled rice spirit to emerge, and continue throughout the quickly fading finish.  It’s not quite rum, and it’s not close to pure, but it is acceptable.  “When in Rome …”

Mekhong is distilled, blended and bottled at the Bangyikhan Distillery in Thailand just north of Bangkok.  The producer admits their rum is distilled  in a combination of pot and column stills into “Neutral spirits from 95% cane and 5% rice” with several Thai “herbs and spices and caramel added”.  Steamed rice is treated with mold and allowed to decay for about four days, enough time to convert rice to fermentable sugars.  OK, so it’s not all rum, but the distiller’s transparency is admirable.  

The 200 year old, formerly State-owned Bangyikhan Distillery began produced Mekhong whisky in 1941 west of Bangkok.  That spirit was more akin to rum, as it was distilled from a fermented wash consisting of a diluted mix of 95% molasses and 5% rice, just like the spirit reviewed here.  Regardless, Mekhong was Thailand’s best selling liquor until SangSom entered the market.  The distillery was bought out by SangSom around 2010, and the brand was relaunched as a rum.  Thai Beverage owns Mekhong and SangSom, which are the most popular local liquors, as well as the superior-tasting Phraya, which appears destined for export only.  ThaiBev is one of Southeast Asia's largest distilled spirits producers, maintaining other distilleries in Scotland, Poland, Ireland, China and France.

The Mekhong River defines the border between Thailand and Laos, and provides a name for this rum. 

Mekhong Guides Rum Gallery's yacht in Thailand's Andaman Sea

Mekhong rum was served aboard the Rum Gallery yacht while sailing in the Andaman Sea or Thailand.  It was always a welcome spirit, whether giving us a bottle to steet to the next island by, or making a sundowner afer another successful island landing.  

I’d like to introduce a few rum aficionados to Mekhong rum in a blind tasting to see if they single it out, good, bad or faked.  I’ve a feeling many would be spoofed.  You’ll never crave Mekhong, and Thailand offers a few better alternatives  – Chalong Bay, Phraya and SangSom – but it’s not a bad little rum.  Mekhong is a solid cocktail base and more interesting alternative to many of the not-so-exciting rums found in Southeast Asia.

Reviewed: February 2014 while sailing around Thailand and again in September 2014 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017