Located in the heart of Phnom Penh, Samai Distillery is Cambodia’s first and only boutique distillery focused on making premium rums.

Spirits enthusiasts visiting Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh need to make a trip down to Samai Distillery. Founded in 2014 by expatriates, Samai is Cambodia’s first and most notable premium distillery making some of the best handcrafted rums coming out of Southeast Asia.

Samai Distillery combines the founders’ Latin heritage and tradition for making rums with Cambodia’s excellent terroir that allows it to growing high-quality sugarcane. That sugarcane – sourced from Cambodia’s Koh Kong province in the west of the country – is converted into top grade caramel molasses, which forms the base of Samai’s rums.

Samai is located in the heart of Phnom Penh

Built into a warehouse located along a ramshackle alley in the heart of Phnom Penh, Samai is a tiny backyard – if professionally set up – operation even compared with other small scale producers. You’ll realise how small it is when you first enter. On one side are two small rooms; an administration office and another where rums are being bottled. A beautiful bar occupies the opposite flank, along with a retail space if you’re looking to pick a few bottles up.

The heart of Samai is located at the back of the building. Here you’ll find a number of washbacks gleefully bubbling away as the fermentation takes hold, one column still as well as a pair of small traditional handmade 500-litre copper stills working at turning that wash into a clear distillate.

Another room in the rear stores barrels – mostly ex-American bourbon casks – filled with rum, aging quietly away in Cambodian’s warm weather.

Pot stills at Phnom Penh's Samai

Samai makes a range of rums. There’s the Samai White Rum, which is first aged in barrels and then filtered through charcoal to achieve its clarity (it’s a similar process employed for Bacardi Blanca). Their Gold Rum – Samai’s first rum – on the other hand is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and sherry French and American oak casks for complexity, and then dosed with a touch of local organic honey for sweetness and balance.

Then there’s the Kampot Pepper Rum, which leans on Cambodia’s vaunted and much beloved kampot pepper to add a lovely tangy, floral and spicy kick to the mix. Samai also makes a rum liqueur; the Samai PX Rum Liqueur sees rum matured in Spanish PX sherry casks for sweet fruity and dessert-like flavours.

The Samai Kampot Pepper Rum and Gold Rum recently picked up medals at this year’s International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC). My personal favourite is their white rum, which I think is a fun exploration of Cambodia’s terroir and Samai’s house distillation style as well as a great representation of a contemporary Asian rum.

Samai distillery with rums

Samai Distillery is primarily a working distillery, so they don’t offer official tours of its facility. It is, however, available to visit on two days – Thursdays and Saturdays – when they throw open their bar to the public during the evenings. Here’s when it turns into one of the city’s favourite drinking nightspots for cocktails.

So plan accordingly. I highly recommend you call ahead to let them know you’d love a tour of their space before availing yourself to drinks at the bar, just to make your trip to Samai Distillery totally worthwhile.

Samai’s rums are distributed in Singapore by La Maison du Whisky, if you’re looking to pick some up.

A big thank you to Rosewood Phnom Penh for arranging this distillery visit.

Samai Distillery

Address #9B, Street 830, 830 Samdach Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh 12301, Cambodia (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 6.30pm to 11.30pm on Thursdays and Saturdays; closed on other days
Tel (855) 77 479 912
Web www.samaidistillery.com
Instagram @samaidistillery
Reservations book here

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