Ban-Ahm’s rice wine distillery is proof that local boutique producers show a greater attention to detail(which can be tasted) and are inherently more sustainable. The still is powered by a fire made from the fluffy husks of the rice kernels that after fermented are then feed to pigs which “get drunk and fat” off the white rice mash left after the distilling process. Besides tourist visits, it is unfortunately the selling of these Dionysus mimicking swines that makes him the most money. “The Vietnamese company make the rice wine and sell for very cheap.” Translates my driver Mr. Lychee for Ban-Ahm. “They even say sometimes that it’s made in Cambodia, but they just take alcohol from other things and add some flavors and sell like real thing.”
He has been fermenting with his own home cultivated yeast strain for 30 years on the same exact street in Battambang Cambodia using a customized spice mix of Cardamom, long black pepper, coriander, star anise, ginger, galangal, garlic and chili peppers to cultivate the flavor profile. These are spread on a bed of fine rice grains with the crushed yeast to start the fermenting process. It is then left for an additional two days in a bucket to mature into the mash that is then distilled. His production varies with the heat of the season, making approximately one liter per kilo of rice. First distilling comes I’m at 39% while his second round for the final product finishes at a potent 45%.
This is all done in a twenty foot square room that smells reminiscent of a bakery, where Ban-Ahm often sleeps on a cot to make sure no-one is dipping into his product.
Rice Wine, in comparison to other liquids has a more nose centric flavor. Garlic and chili notes are the most forward with a cardamom herbal finish. Though not destined for drinking straight on the rocks, this rice wine has a wonderful nose and is perfect as a mixer. With Coca-Cola, always an option in Cambodia, it melds with the caramel sweetness and adds an additional herbal complexity on the finish.
Resiliency: 5/10 Liquor… Have a nip and call it quick, in the name of your morning.
Affordability: 9/10 Sold from the man in a repurposed .5 L water bottle for around a dollar, and I was paying happy tourist tax.
Cannabis Pairability: 5/10 Attempt at your own risk.