Eating at a restaurant in Phuket, I noticed they had a display of Rum bottles from the "Chalong Bay Distillery". Very fancy bottles, all nicely presented. I wonder if they have a distillery tour? There was a url: chalongbayrum.com, and there it was, a distillery tour.
I've lived in Europe and done wine tours and brewery tours and so I know the score. They usually have a fancy area for tourists full of old oak casks, and dust covered bottles, and you're taken around that. They you see the factory and its modern and shiny and complies with all the heath and safety laws for every country in the world.
Which is this? Well a bit of both. They have an old almanac still for the distillation, and a super clean hand bottling room for the packaging. I think the owner is French, there's a lot of French references in the tour, and an Almanac still gives it away. In Thailand rum is poor mans whiskey and is flavored with herbs. It's a very different product!
The tour costs 300 baht and it includes two cocktails to taste the rum. One at the start and a tasting with flavored syrups at the end. This is really the main event, the distillery isn't much and the talk is more like hard sell than interesting facts! It goes without saying the tour is not suitable for children.
So what does it taste like? Well very clean rum without the nasty aftertaste. For some reason it tasted like coconut to me, but I think that's the mental image that a bottle with a white label, served in a palm leaf shack conjures in my head more than the flavor of the drink itself.
If you're giving it as a gift, its clearly a premium product, so you won't lose any face. Try their nice rum-raising ice-cream that had that delicious bitter/sweet taste you expect.