Mandalay Special 12 Year Rum Review

Mandalay Rum

Straight-from-Myanmar Mandalay Rum. Torn label for added authenticity.

When you’ve got a friend who’s working in Myanmar, you tend to ask questions. “What’s Myanmar like?” is a good one. It falls right behind “Can you ship me some local booze?” So that’s how I acquired  bottles of Grand Royal Whisky and Mandalay Special Rum, the latter being a 12 year old expression that’s distilled, blended and bottled at Myanmar’s Mandalay Distillery.

Mandalay Rum dates back to 1886 and has changed hands many times over the years. Now it’s beging manufactured and distributed by Victory Myanmar Group Co. And from what I can gather online, the company makes a robust lineup of rums, including a white rum, a one year old expression, a couple with no age statements and this–the 12 year old Mandalay Special Rum.

Mandalay Special Rum is unlike a lot of rums. It’s absent that strong molasses note you’ll often find in Caribbean rums. And it’s also absent the tropical fruit notes you’ll find in Phraya Rum (which hails from neighboring Thailand), Tanduay Asian Rum (the Philippines) and many other Southeast Asian rums. This thing is a rum unto itself.

On the nose, there’s a real brandy-like quality within. Wine fruits and oak, mostly, plus hints of fresh sugar cane. Take a sip and things begin very warm, with lots of heat from this 86 proof spirit. It’s spicy on the palate with plenty of sugar cane, vanilla and more of that brandy-like fruit. Things finish dry, warm and oaky.

This is interesting rum and it makes us wonder what kind of barrels they’re using for its maturation process. (If anyone knows, please chime in). It’s a real treat to taste spirits unavailable stateside, and this is no exception. It’s not the best rum I’ve tasted, but it’s loaded with flavor and something I’d happily look for if circumstances bring me to Myanmar.

— 43% ABV
— price unknown

CE Rating: ★★★

Like that? Drink this:
Tanduay Asian Rum Review
Phraya Rum Review
South Sea Australian Rum Review

Go back to rum reviews.

Written by Kevin Gray


  1. JJ · January 22, 2017

    Only question is where in the UK can you find this? Been looking but to no avail.

    • David · March 18, 2017

      You’d pay so much more and it’s interesting, but for the price to import you’d want to get something more. I bought a bottle of the ’12 year Special’ variety tonight, and it was 3100 kyat, so $2.28 for 750ml.

      For $2.28, it’s an excellent bottle of rum. For $2.28, even an empty bottle is a pretty good bottle. It’s the kind of thing to mail back in the goodie baskets that are popular gifts here, not to go too far out of your way.

      My take, I agree with Kevin:

      It’s not a smooth rum. It’s not spiced, but I think it is probably flavored. It’s very complex and the flavors are strong, orange and caramel and oak, but there’s a slight hint of something formaldehyde that doesn’t linger, it briefly lets you know what you paid for it. Drinking it neat, I much prefer it to Bacardi gold, as a baseline, and it’s a lot better priced for mixing into fruit cocktails that drown that unpleasantness entirely.

      It’s interesting. I’d like to see a Myanmar premium single barrel rum from cane juice rather than blended rums from molasses. There’s something distinctive in the earth here. It’s in the rice.

      I think these Southeast Asian sweet rums and whiskeys really are in a different category, this one does also remind me more of SangSom more than it does anything from the new world. If you want to get a sense of it, maybe you can find SangSom wherever you are.

  2. David · March 18, 2017

    Oh, and: “what’s Myanmar like?”

    Yangon is kind of like Paris films in the 60s. There’s a lot of conflict in the Muslim regions, like the situation with Algerian War. There are golden stupas at the end of half the avenues so you’re always looking at the Eiffel Tower in any direction. There are a lot of teenagers and young adults and they seem like good people listening to rock and roll. Mopeds are banned in Yangon, so all the polluting meth addict terrorists from the provinces aren’t there driving around harassing people. And it kind of looks like it was bombed recently, because of the hurricane I think.

    It’s a hopeful mess. The government is probably fixed.

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