If you enjoy your drink, then Goa is the place to be. Not only has the sunshine state become a hub for craft spirits in the country, but it has also curated interesting experiences that go all the way from tasting whiskey, sipping beer, and sniffing gin to decoding Goa’s very own local feni.
1. World’s first feni cellar: Beco Das Garrafas
I gear up for a morning of learning everything about feni from Hansel Vaz, the founder of Cazulo Premium Feni. After a scenic half-an-hour drive in South Goa, I reach to find that he is busy and someone else is taking over. I am handed a glass of Urrak, the first distillation of cashew apple that is in season in summer. As I sip the drink, the tour begins and I spend about an hour learning all about the history of feni, and how it is distilled and made.
Then we make our way to Beco das Garrafas, the world’s first feni cellar which is lined with giant vintage bottles that were brought to Goa during the Portuguese rule. After this, it is time to taste the feni—but not at this cellar. There is a table set up inside a small water body, where we sip three kinds of feni—cashew, coconut, and dukhshir—along with munchies such as cheese, dry fruits, and capsicum, sandwiches, pao, and more. Try to make sure you do not head out on a sunny day, because the table is set outdoors and the sun can be very draining.
Attention all single malt lovers, this one is for you. If you want to understand all that goes behind producing the bottle you covet in your bar, then make your way to the Paul John Visitor Centre for their distillery tour. The first of its kind in the country, the warm Portuguese interiors with yellow walls, rustic furniture, and colourful paintings by a local artist give the place a true Goan feel. From learning all about milling, mashing, fermenting and distilling in copper pots to visiting the underground cellar—the tour reveals all about the process behind making a single malt. Along the way, tour guides throw in some fun facts about single malts. Don’t worry, you get to taste it as well. There are two sessions: one with five variants and another one with three. But for those who only want to only do the tour and skip the tasting, that is also an option. So do go for this if you love your whiskey.
Spread over 13,000 square feet in Candolim, North Goa, is the country’s first alcohol museum featuring five rooms. Predictably, the alcohol in focus here is the local brew, feni, and one learns all about this drink starting from its evolution to how it is manufactured and distilled. The feni cellar here has bottles that go back to the 15th and 16th centuries, and you can even taste feni that dates back to 1946. This museum, which is the brainchild of Goan businessman Nandan Kudchadkar, is home to a plethora of unique items like mud pots, a sugarcane crusher, alcohol shot dispenser, decanters, wonky wine glasses, and water pots in silver and more. Do not forget the feni tasting at the end.
Why should brewery tours be restricted to Belgium or Germany when good beer is being brewed in this sunshine state? If this beverage is your weakness, then sign up for the Maka Di beer, where a guide will show how the beer is brewed and the method of turning the malts and hops into that wonderful golden liquid. All this, of course, ends with a tasting session of the freshly-brewed beers, which incidentally you can savour straight from the tap.
The brewery is set amid lush greenery and a tour here can be easily extended into a daylong picnic where you can pair your chilled beer with local dishes made by village chefs. For those upto it, there are also some fun games at a beer garden such as beer pong and Jenga blocks.
In recent years, a variety of gin brands made in Goa have made their mark and small-batch gins are ruling the roost. Among them is Tamras gin which interestingly uses 16 botanicals such as lemon, mint, fennel, black and green cardamom, coriander seeds, and more. The one-hour tour starts by explaining the basics—what exactly constitutes gin and delving into the history of this very popular tipple. After that, step into the craft distillery where you get familiar with the process of distillation and production. “We visited a lot of craft distilleries overseas to understand the process and wanted to offer a similar experience in our country,” says Devika Bhagat, co-founder of Adventurist Spirits Distillery.
Then comes a tasting session that focuses on deciphering the different notes of the gin in your hand. It doesn’t end here: a cocktail masterclass with a cheese platter and nibbles end the tour on a high note. It takes place on Fridays and Saturdays at 5.30pm