I have been accused on too many occasions, perhaps most hurtfully by my mother (in view of her lifetime’s unwavering dedication to alcohol consumption) that I couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery. All I can say is, I wish the old battleaxe was here today (her dedication got the better of her) to apprehend my recent achievement:
I had always wanted to see the place where all the magic happens, where bland vegetables, unprepossessing fruits and even our dear, but dreary, rice, are turned into a potion so incredibly powerful it can render a man’s vision, motion, rationality and common sense all uninhibitedly deranged. The newest player on the booze scene, and Chiang Mai all the way, is a white spirit called Maa Jai Dum. It’s a little like Vodka, though all three variations of the drink have a distinctive taste. And most of all, the owner of the brewery, the creator of the drink, has tried his hardest to make a drink that doesn’t wipe you out the day after. “I never liked hangovers,” he told us.
‘Kung’ Kokiatikul is the managing director of Maa Jai Dum. After leaving his original Maew Jai Dee company (Good Hearted Cat) – selling decorative candles on Nimmanhaemin Road – Kawee decided to give making booze a shot. A self taught brewer he came up with a drink made from the nectar of the flower of coconut. “Russia has vodka,” says Kawee, “there’s tequila in Mexico, but there isn’t really a Thai drink.” So Kawee made one. He calls it ‘Flowery’. He also makes two other kinds of spirit, one made from potatoes, the other from bananas. The potato spirit is fairly pungent, while the banana and original are very smooth, they all mix well with fruit juices.
“I didn’t drink much before, but when I did I got terrible hangovers, so I just didn’t bother drinking. When I started this I wanted to create a drink that didn’t give you much of a hangover,” says Kawee. Maa Jai Dum, he explains, is distilled three times to make it as “clean” as possible. “When you make alcohol there’s a head, a body and a tail. The head of alcohol is the methyl, and the tail is fuel oil, which you don’t want, so I purify the alcohol and this ensures you won’t have a bad hangover. “It’s really popular,” he says, “especially with the young crowd. It looks cool, it tastes good, it’s fashionable, and there are less affects from drinking it.”
Kawee’s Maa Jai Dum tastes fine, it’s actually smoother than many big brand vodkas, and over the last few years he’s created a name that sells around 10,000 bottles a month and growing all the time. You can find it in pubs around Chiang Mai and also Rimping and Tops supermarkets. It goes for 370 baht a bottle. He tells us he’s trying to break into the foreign market, though is not sure he wants to move from his beloved house and factory hidden away in a verdant soi of Sankampaeng.
Kawee lined up three bottles, original, banana and potato and we started drinking them with various mixers. Though the piss-up in a brewery would only go as far as slightly pissed-up as we were driving, and more importantly, needed to go straight to be Chiang Mai Ram looking for ghosts. After our session on the Black Hearted Dog we said our goodbyes, and Kawee packed us off with another bottle, some huge bulldog stickers and dodgy smelling breath.
Maa Jai Dum