8 Malaysian-Made Liquors & Brews To Give A Shot

Tercia Goh
·8 min read
From artisanal tuak to indie gins and an award-winning whiskey, this is a list of must-try liquors that captures the Malaysian spirit and inspires the mixing of delicious libations!
From artisanal tuak to indie gins and an award-winning whiskey, this is a list of must-try liquors that captures the Malaysian spirit and inspires the mixing of delicious libations!

From artisanal tuak to indie gins and an award-winning whiskey, this is a list of must-try liquors that captures the Malaysian spirit and inspires the mixing of delicious libations!

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Malaysia has a spirited history. Ask any local bartender, and they’ll be able to name three kinds of staple local alcohols – toddy (palm wine), samsu (a cheap liquor that’s not recommended unless you wish to challenge your liver), and tuak (Sarawakian rice wine). But the scene’s evolved heaps since our moonshine days. While, yes, you’ll still spot Sahip whiskey bottles behind the cashier at quickie marts that came about during British colonial days, and tuak is still made the good old fashioned way, there are heaps of other local brews to look forward to.

Thanks to the rise of speakeasy bars and bespoke cocktails using local flavours, old tastes have been given new twists, with some literally raising the bar and winning awards on the international arena! This is all possible because some dedicated and talented young blood in the spirit industry – local artisan trailblazers, really – are pouring a new path using locally-sourced flavours and ingredients, elevating our drinking scene, one sip at a time. Time to shake things up with these drinks that you can make from home!

1. Timah: Whisked away

While Malaysia is known for producing many things, whiskey is probably at the bottom of the barrel. That was, until Timah from the tin mining state of Ipoh stole the silver medal at the San Francisco 2020 world spirits competition with its double-peated blended whiskey. In a nod to the British heritage of Malaya that emerged in 1863, the label features British explorer Tristram Speedy – perhaps also inadvertently describing the pace of which the whiskey can satisfy one’s thirst for liquid adventure. Lauded to be Malaysia’s first internationally-recognised eight-year double-peated blended whiskey, it will certainly not be the last we hear of it!

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2. Eiling Lim: Indie gin for the win

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It’s not often that one gets to name a series of gins after oneself, but then again, Eiling Lim is not just anyone. No stranger to the local spirits scene, she’s Malaysia’s first Independent Bottler and the proud owner of a trio of small-batch handcrafted gins, using uncommon Malaysian flavours such as Pandan Predator, Nasty Nangka (jackfruit), and Gawky Galangal. And if that in itself doesn’t raise an eyebrow (or a glass), you’d be well impressed that the ingredients are flown to a distillery in Belgium, and then back again to Malaysian shores. That’s the extent of dedication and attention to detail that went into these botanical bottles. Let the drinks be-gin!

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3. Modern Madness: Local infused beers

If you thought Butterbeer from Harry Potter sounded exotic, wait till you take a sip out of trendy tastemakers Modern Madness, a Malaysian brand that infuses local flavours into self-brewed beer! Not for the faint palate, the craft beers consist of a menu that might be mistaken for dishes in Chinatown.

Fancy a Dim Sum infused beer? How about Bak Kut Teh, Chilli Stout, Yuzu Genki, or perhaps a pint of Lemongrass? While some of the more adventurous flavours are seasonally available, you can enjoy their stable tipples in various outlets around the Klang Valley, including REXKL and Ales & Lagers in Publika.

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4. Durian Whiskey: The rebel’s elixir

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This is certainly a defiant drink, paying no heed to the age-old warning of, “Don’t eat durian with alcohol!” Durian Whiskey is a rebel’s elixir of ‘whatever’ followed by eye rolls – from sarcasm and not poisoning, one would hope. Made from 100% fresh and premium Musang King, a single bottle contains an 18% alcohol base volume (ABV). It’s said to be creamy without being over-pungent, packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins, proteins, and minerals.

You know what they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Which may come as no surprise then, that the company was fined in 2019 for falsely claiming the drink to be whiskey, when in actual fact, it had the characteristics of a liqueur instead. This seems a little more reassuring, in that one can enjoy the drink without the risk of being whisked away to the loo.

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5. Tuak Atelier: The contemporary and artisanal wine of Borneo

Established in 2018, Tuak Atelier hails from Miri, Sarawak, and focuses on helping indigenous tribes with earning regular income while ensuring the continuity of their culture and heritage through the appreciation of tuak. Their tuak wines are fermented in-house using carefully-selected agriculture from local farmers. Unlike most tuak, their flavoured range comes in wine bottles, and are also gift-ready with an option of gift wrapping.

There are mini bottles that are perfect for sampling the entire range too, with flavours like Unggu, Roselle Momo, and Passion Keling. To whet your palate, here’s what you can expect from their “first born”, the Roselle Momo – a deep maroon-coloured sweet wine that’s medium- to full-bodied with slight sparkling and a peppery finish. Recommended to be paired with a light dessert or a cheeseboard. Now, this is what we call, tuak with a heart.

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6. VISS LIQUEUR: Thorny temptations

Durian is unmistakably the King of Fruits throughout Asia. It’s one of the only fruits that can make its presence known through scent before sight. A premium vodka liqueur with awards under its belt, VISS LIQUEUR’s signature flavour – Malaysia Durio-Durian – combines a shimmery colour to create a gold, galactic lava lamp effect. Rightfully so, since the combination is pretty out of this world. It’s been reviewed as creamy and refreshing; certainly a drink worth trying once. As with anyone’s first brush with the durian, you’ll either love it or hate it.

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7. ReissJaden Wine: For the fruity wine connoisseur

Malaysia’s first locally-produced wine. That statement is nothing short of a miracle, as aside from defying climatic odds, what’s even more impressive with this #MalaysiaBoleh wine’s that it takes after the flavours of Malaysian fruits such as lemon, pineapple, the famous Bentong old ginger root, and even coffee seeds. You’ll also be glad to know that these wines contain no preservatives, no artificial flavouring agents, and no artificial colouring agents. Branded as a line of premium fruit wines with 14.5% ABV, ReissJaden wines are 100% Malaysian-made. Pairing recommendations include spicy Asian cuisines, seafood, poultry, and an inquisitive palate.

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8. Toddy on Demand: Tod-sicles to cool you down

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When it comes to cooling off in Malaysia’s year-long tropical heat, there’s nothing better than indulging with an ice-cold popsicle, especially if it’s with a little tipsy toddy in the mix! Aside from that, they also create non-alcoholic flavours like Lychee and Currant. If popsicles aren’t your thing, you can order their 1.5L bottles of toddy. In fact, they have you covered for an entire meal, with accompanying dishes like wild boar curry and mutton curry. There’s no day like toddy to try something new! *limited to KL and Selangor.

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Pretty impressive list, is it not? If you’re too lazy to whip up a cocktail yourself, we’ve got you covered! Here are two local KL-based cocktail delivery services you might want to check out!

Coley Bar: Raising the bar for cocktails

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Voted as one of Asia’s 50 Best Bars for three years in a row since 2018, Coley is known as one of the trendy hotspots in Bangsar, thanks to their creative bespoke cocktails embracing local ingredients and flavours. They’ve recently launched a series of thematic cocktails based on Lunar New Year flavours, such as Red Date (rum-based), Jasmine Tea (vodka-based), and Chrysanthemum (yuzu- and gin-based). Their staple menu offers equally mouth-watering options such as Aloe Vera Maguerita, Tequila and Assam Jawa, and Milo Negroni. You get the idea.

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PS150: Handcrafted cocktails and kits

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You no longer need to wait in line for a drink at this popular speakeasy! Located in the heart of KL’s Chinatown, your next fix of one of the city’s best-handcrafted cocktails is just a tap away. With an evolving menu and thematic additions, it’s unlikely that you’ll grow tiresome of predictable concoctions. Their tantalising drinks like Pineapple Tart Daiquiri and Sipping Junglebird DIY Cocktail Kit (home bartending cheat sip) will have you feeling like you’re having a night out in the comfort of your own home!

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Tercia Goh
Tercia Goh

Tercia Goh

Tercia is a Digital Strategist by profession and a Scrapbook Journal-er by passion. Said to have a knack for locating a café or bar within a 10-foot radius, she spends most of her spare time scouring flea markets and stationery stores during her travels. You can follow her journaling journey on Instagram at @Skybambi.

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