Although Myanmar has traditional liquors as diverse as its ethnic groups, most of them rarely make it to the shelves. One of many factors that are preventing these spirits from the spotlight, unstable quality would be the most significant.
Most alcoholic brews are made at home using crops such as rice and maize, the moonshiners often do not get the ingredients right. The product would be strong today and affable tomorrow. Some traditional spirits, like Khaung Yay, can be found at a limited number of ethnic cuisine restaurants.
Among the traditional liquors popular with the locals, palm wine perhaps is the reigning king. The drink is associated with the dry zone and the tough life of palm clambers inspire many novels and poems.
Htway Nyo is a locally produced spirit based in Mandalay Region. The name is a moniker for beautiful women with dark hair and olive skin, a typical feature of Burmese women. It is also a common feminine name in rural areas.
Unlike palm wine which is basically a fermented palm juice, Htway Nyo is a fermented and distilled spirit made from jaggery, or palm sugar.
Making palm wine is simple. The toddy tappers climb the trees in the morning and cut open the fruits. The juice inside turns sour because of the heat as the sun rises. The tappers then climb again in the afternoon to collect the wine.
In Htway Nyo’s case, the juice is collected before it turns sour and evaporated to produce unrefined palm sugar. It is then prepared for fermentation and distillation processes to produce the refined spirit. At the final stage, the spirit is put into 350 ml bottles. Each bottle of Htway Nyo contains 17% of alcohol.
Behind Htway Nyo are two friends Aung Hein Oo and Nay Myo Thura. They always fancied the idea of making their own business using local products.
”We were born and raised in the upper region of Myanmar. Palm wine and jaggery are our native products. One day we were having drinks at our parents’ house. It was when the idea came to us,” says Nay Myo Thura.
The duo started sourcing the raw materials and tested different formulas. Between 17% and 18% volumes, they decided to go with the former after listening to feedback.
”We just started introducing to the market with limited distribution. We’re aiming at 2,000 bottles per month,” says Aung Hein Oo.
He adds it is important to maintain the quality by keeping raw materials fresh, organic and avoiding preservatives and chemicals. Formula and ingredients must always be in right measures to give an unchanging taste and experience.
”Htway Nyo is a go-to option if you are a fan of native spirits and want no headache and hangover. You will enjoy a sound sleep at night and wake up fresh the next morning. But, of course, we have to know our limits and drink responsibly,” Aung Hein Oo lauds.
They call marketing and transportation major challenges. The business is located in Mandalay which is a great place for distribution to the rest of the regions. But, unfortunately, due to the recent COVID-19 threat in Myanmar, almost all business activities have slowed down because of social distancing.
Also, there are several delays with shipments from the suppliers because of the measures implemented to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic around the world.
“But we will do our best and we have plans in place to overcome the challenges to reach out to our customers. So, they can stay home and chill with Htway Nyo.”
At the initial production, Htway Nyo can be found only in Mandalay and Yangon. Places of availability will be updated on their official Facebook page regularly. The wholesale price is Ks 2,710 at a minimum order of one carton and each carton contains 24 bottles.
Have you tried palm-based spirits? Are you excited about Htway Nyo? Follow their page for the updates.