SangSom

Sang Som Bottle &  Box-RG3-USE

Product of:  Thailand.
Aged:   blend of rums aged 1  year and others from 3-5 years
Price: $25
Alcohol: 40% ABV 
Sugar: 0-5g/L (estimate)
Context: Flavored/Spiced Rum
RG Rating: 7.5

Tasting Notes 
Smooth.  SangSom rum is the color of brown walnut, likely darker than the affects oak can have after aging for only 3-5 years in the barrel, perhaps a little caramel and/or cinnamon is added to make this rum appear richer and more mellow.  Still, it’s a pretty little rum, with nice legs, so let’s find out if our noses and palate agree with our eyes.

The aromas are bright and forward.  SangSom smells of oily wood, but more like cassia tree (Chinese cinnamon) and eucalyptus bark than oak. There’s a bit of coriander spice, unripe mango and sweet caramel too, offset by moderately aggressive alcohol.  There’s moderate complexity on the nose, if the warmest invitation to tasting.

The first sip is the most pleasant part of sampling SangSom.  Mildly sweet tastes of caramel and spicy flavors generally coincide with the aromas, carried on a medium weight body through to a smooth finish of reasonable duration.  

Anecdotes 
SangSom is honorably transparent about it’s production process, offering details that the rum is distilled form molasses “with newly produced rum being mixed with rum that has been aged in charred oak barrels for 3-5 years.”  After aging comes blending with “a special concentrate of finely selected herbs and spices to give SangSom its distinctive special taste and aroma.”

Distilled by SangSom Distillery in the Nakhon Pathom Province, about 35 miles West of Bangkok, the rum was first introduced into the Thailand market in 1977, and has since become the country’s most successful liquor. Over 70 million liters are sold annually, commanding 70 percent market share in Thailand.  Indeed, I found it was everywhere liquor was sold in my travels around the fascinating place.

Sangsom, Phraya and Mekhong are owned by ThaiBev, an international company with distilling operations in Thailand, Scotland, Poland, Ireland, China and France.  ThaiBev consolidated several distilleries throughout Thailand and arguably raised the standard of their liquors. 

SangSom Sundowner

Opinion
I’ve always found that a rum in it’s home country tastes best.  Somehow its flavors, good or not so much, just taste better there.  SangSom rum was available at every anchorage during my sail around Thailand – sold on every island, served on every beach – it was clearly the market leader.  Every bartender was beaming with Nationalistic pride to show this westerner his bottle of Sang Som.  My palate eventually calibrated to SangSom, though it never became fully desirable to sip neat or on ice.  But hey, when in Thailand, do as the Thai’s do; drink SangSom.

While SangSom is reasonably pleasant to drink when mixed, I expected more complexity from a rum that boasts of flavoring with many herbs and spices.  Instead, most of the individual aromas and flavors get lost in the shuffle, the sum is less than the equal of those parts. I think of SangSom as a ‘tweener rum - admittedly flavored, but so weakly that it tastes more like a relatively neutral rum that could use a bit more time in the barrel. Considering it in the context of a flavored/spiced rum makes SangSom more acceptable to drink, as I find it more enjoyable when mixed with ginger beer. 

Home now, I enjoy having SangSom less as a rum for drinking and more as a collectible souvenir from an otherwise so-so trip to a culturally rich country that is undergoing rapid change.  I treasure SangSom more for what it reminds me of than for how it tastes.

Reviewed: February 2014 while sailing around Thailand and later the same year at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017