Rượu đế, or Traditional Vietnamese Rice Liquor, at SuTi Distillery, Kennedale, Texas

Rượu đế at the SuTi Distillery

The Only Traditional Vietnamese Rice Liquor Distillery in the United States

SuTi Craft Distillery is the only traditional Vietnamese rice liquor distillery in the United States, and it's located in quiet Kennedale, Texas, just a few miles down the road from the house where I grew up!

Rượu đế at the SuTi Distillery
Rượu đế at the SuTi Distillery

Rượu đế, literally "grass liquor" is a type of Vietnamese moonshine made from rice. It's called grass liquor because during the French colonial period, the only legal alcohol was produced by the government. Local people would still distill their liquor, of course, but they had to hide it in the tall grass fields to keep it out of sight of the authorities. In tribute to this, every bottle at SuTi is wrapped in dried grass as a reminder of where the liquor came from.

bottles of Vietnamese Rượu đế, or traditional rice liquor, in Kennedale, Texas

SuTi is run by two old friends who left Vietnam shortly after the war with their families as teenagers. They grew up in north Texas, and in college, one of the guys began making rice liquor as a hobby. A few years ago, Mr. Sui and Mr. Tien (where the distillery gets its name from), decided to go into business together. The city of Kennedale gave them not only permission, but lots of support, and today, SuTi is the one and only Vietnamese rice liquor distillery in the United States.

the tasting room at SuTi Distillery, Kennedale, Texas
the tasting room at SuTi Distillery, Kennedale, Texas

The tasting room is a beautifully-designed bar built by Mr. Tien, an architect by trade. The design incorporates traditional Vietnamese elements alongside modern design, and reminded me a lot of the cool shops and cafes that we saw in the historic city of Hoi An.

Mr. Tien greeted us as we entered, and welcomed us to the bar for a tasting of SuTi's two rice liquors, which he served to us alongside his guided tasting notes and a lovely slice of cheese. We were the only visitors when we first arrived at the distillery, and got a very special welcome! Other guests arrived soon after, but it was nice to be the only ones to have a sort of private tasting. We chatted with the friendly Mr. Tien for a while while we sipped the liquor (it's meant for tiny sips, he told us). He told us all about the history and culture surrounding Vietnamese rice liquor.

After that, he ushered us into the back room where we met Mr. Sui, an engineer by trade and the "cook" and master distiller behind SuTi's products.

Mr. Sui took us through his small craft distillery, explaining the process of rice liquor distilling, from creating a mash out of rice and fermenting it into a basic rice wine, then heating it, distilling it, and resting it for a few days in a steel drum (like a vodka). The final product is smooth, strong, and clear. It's fascinating to see the whole production from rice to liquor.

the distillery at SuTi Distillery, Kennedale, Texas
Mr. Sui insists that using copper equipment is the most important secret for good distilling.

It was such a fun and informative, but very laid back tour. We were made to feel like part of the family! Both the guys were super nice and really proud of their product. It's so nice to see people build a successful business out of their passion. While both still work their day jobs, they make rice liquor just because they love it! I think that's wonderful!

There are currently two products distilled at SuTi: Lion 45 and Old Man.

Lion 45 is an 80-proof liquor with a sharp, sweet flavor. The designs on the label are in reference to the imperial robes of old Vietnam, and a reminder of the ancient culture and heritage of Vietnam.

Lion 45 rice liquor from SuTi Distillery
Lion 45 rice liquor from SuTi Distillery

Old Man is the stronger, smoother 90-proof made from fragrant and aromatic jasmine rice. It's called that, because the distillers wanted to recreate the type of rice liquor created and enjoyed by old men back in Vietnam. They said that the traditional rice liquor that the old men love is usually made in clay barrels. It's cloudy, sharp, and a little bitter. They've tried to remain true to the flavors that the old men love, while still making it appeal to all people. Essentially, they've refined the flavors a bit.

Old Man rice liquor from SuTi Distillery, Kennedale, Texas
Old Man rice liquor from SuTi Distillery, Kennedale, Texas

They are also working on a barrel-aged rice wine that tastes almost like a whisky! They just had a little bit, but were willing to give us a tiny sample to taste. It's not on the market yet, but they might have it out by next year. It's a bit smoky with that whisky taste that I love. I can see it becoming really popular! I've never heard of barrel-aged rice liquor before. I think that this sort of innovation that combines traditional Vietnamese methods with American aging style and flavors will make for a really interesting and exciting product!

We had a wonderful time on our first real adventure since arriving in America this year. I will definitely be visiting the distillery again, and wish Mr. Sui and Mr. Tien all the best success! And I will certainly be enjoying my bottle of Rượu đế!


Lion 45 - $37
Old Man - $42

Official Website and Social Media

Location and Hours

The tasting room and distillery are open Tuesday-Saturday 1pm-6pm; closed Sunday and Monday