Lao Khao Rice Whiskey – Knock It Back or Over?
Thai lao khao rice whiskey doesn’t tend to get showcased in a drinks cabinet. That’d be like a red-nosed clown turning up at a funeral and asking to help carry the coffin. It wouldn’t seem right.
Lao khao is much more liable to be found in a rural village on a grungy dusty shelf inside an open-air kitchen. No doubt, with a grimy small glass tumbler on top. Lao khao is the boyfriend a girl doesn’t want to show to her parents. Rough looking, cheaply-dressed and unpredictable. And that’s why it’s so popular.
The drink is treasured in the rural areas of Isaan, but, also much-loved throughout the Kingdom.
Introduction – Lao Khao Rice Whiskey
Thai rocket fuel, branded as Lao Khao Whiskey, has its roots buried throat deep in Thai culture and ceremonies. Be it, Songkran (Thai New Year), a wedding, funeral, new home or newly born, at some stage of the ceremony or celebration lao khao will pop its head above the parapet and Whistle Dixie or belch forth the contents of the party food. Sometimes both.
Lao khao rice whiskey is a drink which triggers two opposing opinions. Either you like it, or you don’t. It’s one of two, an alcohol thunderbolt to relish, crave and ache for, or, a foul-tasting brew that one loathes, circumnavigates and sidesteps with a long hop, skip and a jump. Very few people sit on the fence with this one.
The most distinctive hallmarks of lao khao are its smell, taste and afterburn. Again, all three characteristics lay grouped into two different camps. Most Westerners lay their hat in the campsite that depicts the white spirit as rank-smelling, bitter-tasting with a long-lasting burn. My hat, jacket and shoes lay in that camp, but not always.
As strange as it may sound, lao khao can easily sweet-talk and coax me from one camp to the other, if only, for a short stopover. Sometimes I’ll uproot the pegs and pitch-up in the land of shakes and tremors.
A Single Shot of History
The history of lao khao rice whiskey is a steep path to track down. When the first hangover occurred is impossible to say. The assumption being, not long after rice was first cultivated in the country. That being (allegedly) during the Neolithic period 2000–1500 BCE. That’s a lot of ruined weddings and funerals between then and now.
Thai Lao Khao Rice Whiskey – Big or Small?
In an Isaan village, every Mom & Pop shop stocks lao khao. In our outback, it’s 10 baht for a small glass tumbler of rocket fuel and 120 baht ($3.90 US) for a large bottle. And for those mythical villagers who’ve studied algorithms, zoology, physiology and astronomy, a more guarded and less harmful smaller bottle cost 65 baht. An expense that may be a premium tag for many villagers, but ones that shouldn’t kick a Westerner’s wallet too far down the soi (street).
For me, on occasion, life doesn’t get better than sitting in our village garden facing a scalding sun and locking horns with oppressive humidity and a big bottle of lao khao. Mixer drinks being my only comrades and support.
Lao khao rice whiskey is for many Thais, a glass full of culture, comfort, dismissal or faith. Drank amidst a mist of regret, or sipped on the Sea of Good Cheer.
Whichever way the wind blows or the mood takes you, lao khao rice whiskey will often leave you with two options – knock it back in one, or knock it over and walk away.
Choose your love. Love your choice.