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Rum Reviews

Chalong Bay Wild Fermentation, 49% ABV - Review

There’s something enticing and mystical about letting the forces of nature do their work. Slapping on the “wild fermentation”, “wild yeast” label onto any product adds that layer of mystery and exoticism. For me, allowing ambient yeast to do its thing on its own is perhaps the highest order of terroir expression, that is, letting the literal forces of nature do the work for you.

Opening up windows and exposing the fermenting liquid to the elements introduces a whole host of wild fauna. Source: Whisky Advocate

I’ll be the first to admit, if I see anything spotlighting wild yeast, and I’m drawn like a moth to a lamp. Because here's the thing - wild fermentation requires leaving the comfort of lab-grown certainty (in the form of yeast) and embracing the unexpected, be it good or bad. Isn't the gamble so exciting?

Source: Klook

Chalong Bay has released a clear rum that was, according to the team, without any additives - not even yeast. Just good ol’ sugarcane juice, as far as human-handedness goes. One of us has attended a masterclass and deepdive on the Thai rum distillery, so do check out this link to see the peculiarities of this outfit.

Source: LMDW

We were given the chance to try this out at Whisky Live 2023. In this expression, Thai sugarcane juice is used (as with all Chalong Bay rums), distilled with an Armagnac still. In the spirits world, wild fermentation often implies more funky, quirky aromas that arise from the wild yeast and bacteria that inhibit the environment - on the still, in the air, which then gets distilled and concentrated further in the final spirit.

Chalong Bay Wild Fermentation, 49% ABV - Review

Nose: More funky on the nose, with a bit more volatility. There is a plant sappiness to the aroma, though, like bruised tree leaves, but it isn't overpowering. The main aroma is freshly juiced cane juice - but a tad more funky, green, and at some parts a little bit spicy.

Taste: It kicks up some spice at first. There is a small dose of white pepper from the rum, that is a bit fiery and funky. Then, it makes way for more herbaceousness, reminding me on chewing on coriander roots.

Finish: At the finish, it leads up to more white sugar here, as it dries off the tongue. There is still a sappy, resinous quality that comes through, that stays on your tongue. I liken it to chewing on pine needles.

Rating: 6.5/10

Compared to its flagship sibling, this one is a bit more quirky. It feels like that acquaintance that you bond over a shared hobby one day you go off tangent in a discussion - and suddenly, that acquaintance starts oversharing a bit. It makes for interesting stories and there's a bit of a fun factor, but sometimes the volatility comes off strong sometimes, and requires a step back for a reset. By no means bad, just a tad different.

Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.

@vernoncelli