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Magic Alambic is a small Ko Samui distillery producing exceptionally good rum in various flavours. Stop by and see how they produce their rhum agricole by distilling fresh, fermented cane juice brought in specifically from a farm in Nakhon Sri Thammarat.
It’s well-worth a visit to Magic Alambic’s cute little tasting-room sala where you can sample the rum varieties on offer before making a purchase – it makes a unique souvenir or gift from Samui. In season, you can take a tour of the rum in production, and out of season there’s a short video, which you can watch before tasting.
Owner Elisa told us how after holidaying on Samui several times with her now late husband, the couple decided to retire here, but wanted a hobby to keep them busy. Michel researched rum distilling and thought it would be a fun project; had they known how much work and red tape it would involve, Elisa said, they may not have considered such a bold venture – it took a year and piles of paperwork to get the license to produce white spirits, and the hobby turned into a business.
There are two kinds of rum, agricultural (more properly known as rhum agricole) and industrial rum, which are two very different kinds of alcohol. Industrial rum is the result of distilling molasses, a residue of the sugar manufacturing process, while rhum agricole is made from fresh sugar cane. Magic Alambic’s rum is similar to the famous rums of the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The cane season runs from January to May, and it’s all hands on deck when a truck of cane arrives, as it needs to be crushed as soon as possible after being cut. This season Magic Alambic expects to produce 18,000 bottles of rum from 220 tons of sugar cane.
So how is the rum made? A giant steel crusher makes sure every drop of sweet juice is extracted from the cut sugar cane which is fed through its iron jaws. The juice is then filtered and placed in vats, where it ferments with the addition of yeast. Once the fermentation process has ended, the juice is distilled in an alembic purpose-made in France. This process removes the ethanol, the ‘bad’ alcohol that gives the famous hangover headache. Then the liquid is placed in stainless steel vats, where it sits, for up to a year, slowly getting smoother. The rum is then bottled, with some batches flavoured with fresh fruit (no essence is used), including pineapple, lime and mandarin, with coconut and natural flavours also available.
Not everyone can drink rum neat (especially at 8:30 in the morning when we popped by), so Magic Alambic have developed a delicious syrup to mix with the spirit. Its main ingredient is lime juice – they go through a whopping 80,000 limes a year — with brown sugar and cinnamon. It’s mixed with the rum — one part syrup to three parts rum — but you can add more or less according to your taste, and the syrup is good mixed just with water or soda water too, if you have teetotallers or kids with you.
To line the stomach beforehand — or soak up some of the alcohol afterwards — pop into nearby Sweet Sisters Cafe.
If you’re looking for a place to stay and appreciate the quiet side of island life, Magic Alambic has three bungalows to rent on the grounds, surrounding a freeform swimming pool. They are air-conditioned and comfortably furnished, complete with small kitchens so you can get into island life and try out produce from the local markets. Rates average 1,200 to 1,500 baht for the one-bedroom, and 1,800 to 2,500 baht for the two-bedroom bungalow.
How to get there
On the 4170, well signposted on the left, shortly before entering Thong Krut village, when coming from Lamai.
By Rosanne Turner
Last updated on 13th November, 2013.