Category Archives: Spirits

Things that have been distilled


I’ve stolen the text of this post from Kristian Berg.

From a single malt scotch tasting party some years ago. Comments from the assembled tasters.

Oban 14 year… “Dear Oban, I know what you look like- Catherine
Zeta-Jones, still single, living in the Western Highlands- offering me a kiss that is your taste!” 

Macallan 12 year… “A naked afternoon in front of a cozy fire” 

Glenkinchie 10 year… “Porch-swingin’ linger with a neighbor- ‘hey! howdya like a scotch? I’ve got Glenkinchie’ ‘Say what? ‘Glenkinchie…’ So we wrapped up around 10pm and I forgot I had any problems… my neighbor? He said he couldn’t feel his toes…” 

Isle of Jura… “Someone just pushed me down the hill- rolling blur of sun and field flowers” “More fruity – earthy as single malts go with a bit of a circle burn on the
after-swallow (if that’s even a word)” 

Dalwhinnie 15 year… “The whip strikes and stings so sweetly” “Stable – like a pleasant ride in a mid-grade BMW” 

Glenfiddich… “Screw the rocksalt, it’s glenfiddich and lock de-icer in my vehicle this winter!” 

Laphroig 10 year… this is a peaty smokey Islay scotch… “The underside of Gandalf’s green wellies comes to mind and to tongue”!

Rhum Belami from Vietnam

Rhum Belami: The First Premium Rhum Made In Vietnam

I recently returned for a business trip to Ho Chi Mihn City and I was lucky enough to bring one of these back with me. You might not know this, but Vietnam grows excellent sugar, and from sugar comes rum / rhum. Quite possibly, this is the only bottle of Rhum Belami in the entire United States at this moment! I suspect this will change before long.

And what a story! Here’s a photo of Roddy Battajon, distiller and founder of the company who generously hand-delivered my bottle to our offices. Read his story by clicking here.

I grew up watching my grandmother make rhum.

This amber colored rhum has a very strong aroma of mango and papaya, amazing!  I was advised by the distiller that it’s perfect as it is over ice and I’d have to agree.  The fruit aroma follows with a strong fruit flavor.  In fact, the flavor is almost strong enough to be a liqueur.

Are his rhum products good? Well, don’t take my word for it:

Nobody’s itching for a stiff glass of snake wine at the end of a long day

At the moment you’ll need to travel to Vietnam to add this to your collection. In the meantime, I suggest you connect with Roddy and his team here on facebook:

  • Legacy Edition: this a fruity and spicy rhum that is perfect for many occasions such as enjoying a drink with friends in a bar.
  • Premium Rhum: made of organic coconut, Kopi Luwak coffee beans, roasted chocolate, Bandé wood and other, its sweetness will perfectly fit with a dessert (I advise to drink it with a red fruits dessert)
  • White Rhum: this rhum is still in process but I want it to herbs twisted: lemongrass, basilica for instance.


Remember, you heard it here first!

Capel Pisco Reservado

Here’s a big shout-out to my friend Alex for bringing this prize back from his recent trip to Costa Rica.

Yes, this is a bottle of Chilean Pisco in an Easter Island head.  How cool is that?

With a few ingredients (many of which are shown here) it makes a dang fine Pisco Sour.

Say “Hello” boys!

Alex was told that the Easter Island Moa head bottle has been discontinued, so if you are a Tiki Nerd like me, do not turn down the chance to buy one if you manage to find one.

The Pisco itself can be found in a boring old regular bottle.

Sai Gon Wine

Found this at an honest-to-golly supermarket in Ho Chi Mihn City.

Ruou Sai Gon.  A form of distilled rice wine.

Here’s underground Portland beverage maven Trevor M. using his phone to research this bottle which has almost zero english on it.  He brought up this overview of this category of beverage:

Interesting early translations included “pear” and “sand” and eventually “glutinous rice”.

How does it taste?  I’d say it tastes “OK”.  It clearly has a rice character, and I could easily be convinced that there’s a pear note in there.  I don’t have documentation on what it set me back, but if it was more than $5 I’m sure I’d have remembered.  Is it great? No.  But try to find something this good for under $5 in Oregon or Washington.

Tasting new things from far away places = fun!

Ron Pampero Blanco

Went into a new-to-me grocery store here in Ho Chi Mihn City and made some new discoveries, including this: Ron Pampero Blanco from Venezuela.

The label is all in Spanish, which is so refreshing as that’s a non-English language I can actually read!  (So far my Vietnamese hasn’t progressed past “thank you” and “I’m sorry”) The label says this rum has flavors of ripe banana, carmel and vanilla.

Now, I know my tongue is scoured by my daily intake of a quart of  kimchee so I may not be the best person to be tasting subtle flavors.  In my mouth this rum is so light it’s nearly vodka.  Not that it’s bad or anything, made a perfectly good Cuba Libre.

Circle K is big around here, somehow. Also notice the excellent local wiring.

The energy coffee that changes life!

Walking along the river at night.

Cheese!  If you look closely you’ll see the “american style” prepackaged cheese slices are named by their intended use, for those who don’t know how to use cheese, apparently.  Sandwich, Toast and Hamburger.  If you look close you can also see a cheddar labelled “strong and bitey”.


Fighting Rhino Strange Strange Mouth

Clearly Uncle Ho is no more interested in your sobriety than Uncle Sam is.  Earlier today while walking home from the office here in Ho Chi Mihn City I ran across a western-style Supermarket.  Inside, it’s delicious.

Found a selection of local products on the shelves and brought them home.  I mean, I guess they’re local because it’s all in Vietnamese, which I can’t read.

Mekong Royal Rhum

Took me a while to place the flavor.  Finally I realized it’s bubblegum.  A 630ml bottle of this will set you back about $2.50.  Poking about thar intarwubs a bit about this stuff and found this factoid.  So now you know…

Ingredients: Ethanol (31.25%), water (68.45%), synthetic rhino

Ruou De Bach Ma

On this keyboard I’m not going to attempt to punch in all the appropriate appropriate accent marks on the name.  Looking at the selection on the shelf my Bukowski-sense tingling, I figured this was a version of local rice booze.  Sure enough, the aroma of rice is obvious on pouring and the flavor in this example is quite nice.  Slightly sweet, deep and warming.  Well worthy of sipping on it’s own without a mixer.  Note: I did buy the most expensive bottle I saw, $5 vs. the average hooch $1 – $2.  So your hooch milage may vary.

“Rượu đế” appears to be the official designation, and it has an interesting history on Wikipedia.  Read about it here.

Ruou Chanh Rhum

Light, lower in alcohol and with a slight pleasant carmel flavor, at about $1.80 per 500ml, you’ll have plenty of money left over for a stay in rehab. tells us:

Incredibly with how to make lemon rhum wind for the whole house.

Ah, so much better than the kind of wind usually generated inside the house.  Follow this site for more recipies in Vietnamese.  Also for endless amusement with Google translate.  Here’s two examples of other articles:

Uncovering the way to make rhubarb orange cat


Fighting rhino strange strange mouth

…and now some more travel photos.  Traffic here is quite the experience.  Crossing the street is like diving into a swarm of bees.  Yet, somehow I’ve yet to see a single altercation.  Back when I was commuting daily from the Hillsboro area into SE Portland on hwy 26, I generally saw one accident per day, sometimes more.  Here, not so much.


Rum in Ho Chi Mihn City

Rum, it’s what’s for dinner.

Saigon Rum, product of Vietbev
Caribbean Dark Rum Superior, product of Viet Beverage Corporation

Been looking for something worth-while to bring back fom Vietnam, always looking for local examples of interesting beverages.  It may be a bad thing that these labels are in English instead of Vietnamese. I’m not sure, I’m new here.  The city so far, seems awash in the kinds of alcohol you’d get in the Duty Free shop instead of something made nearby.

The dark rum has a strong brown sugar flavor, the light a pleasant vanilla flavor.  Neither are very complex, but they were about $6/each so perhaps they are intended as more of something fun to take home vs a vital part of  local culture.

In fact, taking a closer look at the label on the Caribbean Rum it says, “Blended and Bottled from French Rum Concentrate”.  Ingredients list “French rum concentrate, food grade ethanol, pure water”.


Skunk Brothers – Testing The Limits of What’s in a Name

Skunk Brothers in Stevenson, WA. Boy, doesn’t that name make you want to pour some of their liquids down your throat…? I can’t say that the name works for me, but I guess in terms of a name, it is memorable.

Before we get there let’s start with a nice photo. Here’s Joyce representing her inner Viking Shield Maiden. She’s being nice about it here. Don’t make her kick your ass.


Follow the signs, Neo.

Ok, they are so new that they suffer the challenge new whiskey distilleries have. It takes a few years to have aged product to offer customers. Their real product is at least a year off. So it goes.

What you can carry away today are fine things made from unaged white lightening. Our fav was the Apple Pie which has a delightful apple flavor and avoids the syrupy sweet flavor we’ve had elsewhere.

Their tasting room is attractively appointed and a nice cool place after the summer sun.

It’s a family affair there at Skunk Brothers. That day Jamie Donoho was wo-manning the tasting room. She favored us with a quick tour of their shiny facility and took excellent care of us. Two thumbs up for the tasting experience.

While their building is classic dull modern light-industrial park, across the parking lot is the glory of the Columbia Gorge.

…and right there is where an international kiteboarding competition is held. While we watched kiteboarder after kiteboarder launched themselves 30 feet in the air right in front of us.

Heritage Distilling

When in Gig Harbor, WA why not stop in and visit Heritage Distilling?

It’s a lovely place, this Gig Harbor:


If you look close, you’ll see a giant monster volcano decorating the sky and waiting to turn us snotty northwest types into volcanic ash or disaster refugees…


Should you need to settle your nerves, here’s Kelton, your friendly tasting room guide.


Then there’s this guy:

Welcome to the Pacific NorthWest.  We do things maybe a little different. In this case, you can get a growler of booze.  A GROWLER OF BOOZE.  Up here in the Portland area, growler stations for filling bottles to-go has gotten quite popular for our fine craft brews.  This is the first time I’ve seen it for spirits.

Joyce is fond of the brown spirits, so here’s a close-up of our tasting.  Overall we rate their offering as “dang fine” though it’s clear their offering will improve as they have more time to age their product.  They sell a wide variety of flavored vodkas.  We’re not fond of those – what’s the point of something that tastes like nothing, except this bit tastes like blueberries?  Whoop-de-do, can I just have some blueberries?  However, from a business perspective a distillery has to sell something today while they wait for their aged product to be ready for market.  The way to enjoy vodka is to go here:

Anyhoo – their gin products are also worthy of attention.  Check out their “soft gin”.  You heard it here first!


I generally like to post positive product reviews, but sometimes I’m forced to warn the reader.  In this case, their Brown Sugar Bourbon - is something they are pushing on customers.  I’ve even seen TV commercials for it.

Ok, maybe you’ll like it, in which case please enjoy.  However, if you’re interested in one spirit over another, you can save yourself the time and money by just buying a bunch of this: cuz, that’s what it tastes like.  And if you include it in your tasting flight, don’t drink it last because the cloying sweet maple flavor will follow you for a long time.

Also, be sure to double-check your receipt before making your way out.  They charged us incorrectly and we didn’t notice until later.  I’m sure they would have fixed it had we been willing to drag my malfunctioning hip back to their location to discuss.

New Deal Distillery



We walked out of Vinn into a crazy downpour. So instead of riding off we strode across the street to New Deal Distillery. The New Deal tasting experience is quite the contrast to Vinn. New Deal has bounced around to a few locations and the current one is a quite pleasant mix of dark wood and decor providing a tip of the hat the era of the New Deal and industrial production space nicely showing off the shiny brass equipment.

And it was busy! Their staff was kept hopping serving groups of tasters. Fortunately we had no reason to hurry and spent the time exploring their location.

Products? Fine stuff. I skipped tasting their vodkas, because why bother tasting something that’s not supposed to have a taste…? I enjoyed their rum which has a big buttery taste. They had three gins yesterday. The standout one is not on their web site. I believe it was called Tom Strong. They age it in wine barrels for nine months and it definitely picks up an interesting character which I enjoyed.

They offer a short list of very tasty-sounding cocktails. Were we not on the pork trail for an overdue meal we would have stayed and taken those beverages for a test-ride.

– Steve