copper column still
Alcohol by volume:
It seems that Hollywood shaped our perception about the Vietnam War and thus the collective memory. In fact, the Americans were not a party to the conflict and provided officially only advisory and support services to the South Vietnamese government. They were so uninvolved that half a million American soldiers were stationed on the Indochinese Peninsula. In turn, North Vietnam was supported by communist China and the Socialist Bloc. And that's how the Vietnamese war in Vietnam turned into a substitute confrontation of the Cold War powers.
An undeniable advantage of the Vietcong was excellent knowledge of the terrain; they moved supplies and troops undetected under the spreading jungle. The American military considered to smash vegetation and croplands as an adequate remedy. The chemical companies (e.g. Monsanto and Dow Chemical) responded to the army's needs and neglected quality control, unable to keep up with production. As a result, defoliant sprays contained dioxins - highly toxic substances - that accumulate in the food chain and human tissues.
1.68 million hectares were contaminated. The ecological balance was permanently disturbed, causing strong soil erosion and extinction of many animal species. Three million Vietnamese were exposed to the poison, mostly civilians, of which several hundred thousand were disabled or seriously injured. American courts refused them compensation, which American veterans finally received and not without difficulties.
Although public opinion didn't know the truth, the pacifist protests intensified as well as the counterculture movement. Several thousand scientists along with over a dozen Nobel Prize winners signed a petition (1967) calling to stop spraying immediately. In vain: Chemical companies and the army knew about the threat, but nonetheless were safe from legal action under laws protecting government contractors. And the courts decided that the end justifies the means, since chemicals spraying saved the lives of... American soldiers. Let me recall: for every American there were sixty-five dead on the opposite side.
What that has to do with rum? Some scientists claim that environmental contamination caused by spraying can persist for decades, although opinions are divided. Nevertheless, sugarcane remains one of Vietnam's most important industrial crops. Out of curiosity, I am checking the Distillerie d'Indochine location; it's near Hội An. Apparently the central Vietnamese province of Quảng Nam has been treated softly: 8% of its area has absorbed three million litres of chemicals.
The Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD Convention), ratified in 1978, prohibits the deliberate management of natural processes affecting the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and outer space. So keep chill, we are safe now.
As a disclaimer, my associations above or maybe even frustrations may be controversial but please keep in mind that the producer itself is as innocent as lamb here. Sampan debuted in 2019 as a boutique project of three Frenchmen wanting to live right next to the beach. The name refers to a Chinese boat intended for river and coastal navigation and highlights Southeast Asia. I like the logotype artistically alluding to the Vietnamese flag: a golden star rising above the bloody sail.
Hội An lies on the 15th parallel, the same latitude as the Caribbean. Sugar cane comes from local farmers; grown without pesticides; an endemic, yellow variety called K-vàng. The juice being pressed within 24 hours is fermented for four days and then distilled in a Sofac alembic (colonne 11 plateaux extraction 2 de concentration). Resulting rum (70-72% abv) is reduced within 6-8 months to ready for bottling 43% abv with the use of osmotic water. The product is not aged in barrels, but rests in inert inox tanks. Master distiller Antoine Poircuitte emphasises not using any additives.