A first taste of Red Boat’s fish sauce, which Pham gleefully taps directly from the barrel into porcelain tasting bowls for visitors, delights the palate with its rich, deep blasts of umami and caramel, and distinct lack of fishiness. Sweetness from the wood comes through in almost floral whispers, and the salt, harvested from Vietnam’s southern coast, is gentle enough that we sipped the reddish-hued liquid pure. Such is the nature of the sacred first press, which many producers of fish sauce have traditionally kept for themselves. It’s a distinction that Pham makes by showcasing his product’s high nitrogen grade (°N) on the bottle, which corresponds to the ratio of protein to liquid. The higher the grade out of 40, the better, with Red Boat’s standard release sitting at 40 and many commercial varieties falling in the mid-20s range.