Acclaimed cartoonist, the late Mario Miranda, once described Goa as a ‘Land of feni and harmony’ to Mac Vaz, who runs, with his family, the Madame Rosa Distillery, which is one of the state’s more prominent distillers of the spirit. And Goa is, indeed, proud of its cashew or toddy palm-based liquor. But no one is prouder than Mac, and why wouldn’t he be? His family has produced feni since 1933, and boasts in its inventory brands such as the widely available ‘Big Boss’ and the unique charcoal-filtered and oak cask-matured label, ‘Lembranca’.
And, in true alignment with the finesse and high spiritedness common to both him and the drink, Mac Vaz and his brother, Cedric Vaz, have been hosting feni-tasting sessions at venues such as the beachfront Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa, which is located in Cansaulim in South Goa. The event is a lively affair, though it is the wonderful emceeing by Jeffrey Manuel, who Mac calls the world’s ‘first fenilier’, that takes the cake. His aura is infectious as he goes around decked in a suit and engages with everyone participating in the tasting, and even strums a ukulele—for which participants are provided a shaker to join in the beat—to some classic Goan music. He also introduces people to feni, its distillation process, and its important role as part of Goan culture.
Once the tasting gets underway, prepare to experience feni at different levels of the distillation process in one evening. Begin with urak, which is low in alcohol content and not too fine, but still has quite a following. Then sip the Big Boss feni, served first neat and then in a cocktail, followed by the aged Lembrance, and, finally, the very prestigious 2012 ‘Valpoi Estate Exclusive Edition’ label, which is opened after being aged for five years in port oak casks. The drinks become progressively darker in colour and more complex in flavour, and certainly more enriching. Also, to keep things from getting too heady, snacks are served as well. And as you go through the process, make sure to take notes in a feni tasting sheet.
Also, it’s a bonus if you’re around Goa during the cashew feni harvesting season—between March and May—because Madame Rosa Distillery, in collaboration with Park Hyatt, organises the Annual Cashew Trail spread over seven to nine days. Parts of it are feni appreciation sessions, visits to cashew apple farms, spa experiences and many unique and interactive events.
+91-9823029032 (Mac Vaz)