Raise a Dram of Lao-Lao in a Laotian Village
Are you planning to raise a dram on May 20 in celebration of World Whiskey Day? There are parties set across the globe, and your local pub is likely holding a special event. But if you want to experience whiskey somewhere different, consider traveling to Southeast Asia, and Laos specifically. A country still relatively off the beaten tourist track, it’s a magical land that’s known for its rice whiskey.
At ATJ, we’re celebrating the “water of life” in Ban Xang Hai village. The village, which is appropriately accessed by river, is one of the country’s major rice whiskey producers. In fact, locals have been producing, the country’s beloved whiskey, lao-lao, using traditional techniques since the 19th century. Lao-lao is amongst the least expensive alcoholic drinks that can be purchased in Laos and can vary in strength from around 40 to 45 percent alcohol. The drink is created when rice is steamed and then combined with yeast and water to make whiskey, which takes around 20 days to brew.
In the Ban Xang Hai village experience, you’ll have the opportunity to see the production process, from growing the rice to distillation in homemade stills, and sample the spirit, which is traditionally drank neat, but may be flavored with everything from honey to scorpions.
One of a handful of new Asia experiences we launched to celebrate our 30th anniversary this year, this trip begins at Ban Somsanouk, where you’ll hop into a kayak and paddle down the Nam Ou River with the whiskey village the final destination. The scenery is stunning, all lush jungle and dramatic limestone cliffs. Along the journey, you’ll pull over to enjoy a Lao-style picnic lunch. Then, upon reaching the confluence of the Nam Ou and Mekong rivers, we kayak up to the Pak Ou Caves sitting above the Mekong and only accessible by boat. More than 6,000 Buddha statues - both new and hundreds of years old - fill the caves, and were lovingly placed there by nearby villagers and pilgrims the world over wishing to retire their damaged and old statues. After exploring the caves by torchlight, you’ll head back to the kayak and paddle down the Mekong until you reach Ban Xang Hai. And, by this point you will have calorically well-earned your whiskey toast. Cheers!