UPSTART in cambodia
As seen so far, the new distillers don’t usually have a lot of resources to complete on the global scale, so differentation is key. Just look at Cambodia’s first rum distillery, Samai Rum, named after the Khmer word for modern. Says co-founder and chief executive officer Antonio López de Haro, “Premium rum, and actually rum in general, was an under-appreciated spirit in Cambodia. Just four years ago you could only find about four brands of mass-produced international rum brands. In 2015, rum was the least popular spirit in terms of consumption in the country, just after tequila as the worst performing spirit.”
Together with co-founder Daniel Pacheco, the two Venezuelans decided to represent their roots by making the Spanish-style rum found throughout Central America while also taking advantage of the local high quality raw materials, creating the world’s first Kampot Pepper Rum in the process. López de Haro shares, “Many people believe that Cambodia-made products are of lower quality but they couldn’t be more wrong. Cambodia has an extensive portfolio of world-class products, such as Kampot pepper, which has an origin denomination and is one of the best palm sugars in Southeast Asia, rice and coconut oil. Now it has rum – in 2017, we won four awards, including a Silver Medal and Bronze Medal at London’s International Spirits Challenge.”
The key for both Samai Gold Rum and Samai Kampot Pepper Rum is a careful control of production, from ferment to distillation, ageing, blending and bottling in-house. The latter’s recipe in particular has taken four years to master, with multiple processes of double distillation, vapour infusion, maceration and other methods.
With production at just 6,000 bottles a year, Samai is scaling up with the delivery of a new copper pot still and looking at increasing production to 60,000 by year end. By mid-year, they’ll have ventured out of Cambodia for the first time, exporting to France, Singapore and Malaysia for a start. With so much at stake, the plans have to be big: “Within five years we should be present in over 20 countries. Fast-forward a few more years and we should be in every major rum market around the world!”