Heritage spirit - Feni


Process of Feni Preparation

Feni is alcoholic beverage locally prepared from cashew apples whose strength is 45% above, exclusively in Goa. In the traditional method of making cashew feni, only tree ripened cashew apples that have fallen are picked and taken for the crush. The cashew apples are de-seeded and then dropped into the stomping area. This area is called a "colmi" and is usually a rock cut into a basin shape. The cashew apples are stomped to release the juice. Stomping has now gradually been replaced by the use of a press called a pingre (cage). The pulp is then hand-pattied into small mounds traditionally using a particular vine, nudi, which is snaked around it to hold it together while a heavy weight (typically a boulder) is placed on top. The juice produced through this process is known as neero, and is refreshing to drink. The fresh neero is traditionally in a large earthen pot called a kodem, which is buried halfway in the ground and left while the juice ferments for several days. Delicate earthen kodem have now been replaced by plastic drums for the sake of practicality. The juice is then allowed to sit for three days as it ferments. No artificial yeast or nutrients are added to hasten the process.

Fermented cashew fruit juice being transferred into pots for distillation

Cashew feni is distilled employing the traditional pot, which is still practiced. A traditional distilling feni is still known as a bhatti. The use of an earthen pot as the boiling pot has now been replaced with copper pots, both known by the same name bhann. The distillate is collected in an earthen pot called a launni. The tradition of cold water being continuously poured on the launni to condense the distillate has now been replaced by immersing a coil in cold water.

Cashew feni is a triple distilled spirit. The first distillate of the fermented neero is known as urrack, about 15% alcohol (30 proof). Urrack is then mixed with neero in a proportion determined by the distiller, and redistilled to give a spirit called "cazulo" or "cajulo" (40-42% abv). Cazulo or Cajulo is again distilled with urrack to give a high strength spirit called feni (45% abv).

Note that cazulo is generally sold as "feni", as the spirit is considered too strong of an alcoholic beverage for consumption. All cashew feni now available is double distilled.


Geographical Indication Registration for Feni

Geographical Indication Registration of “Feni”-2009

India passed the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act in 1999 as part of its obligations to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The definition for a GI in the Act is: “an indication which identifies such goods as agricultural goods, natural goods or manufactured goods as originating, or manufactured in the territory of a country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of such goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin and in case where such goods are manufactured goods one of the activities of either the production or of processing or preparation of the goods concerned takes place in such territory, region or locality, as the case may be”.

Demonstrating its keen interest in GIs, the Government of India ran a series of meetings across the country to promote and popularise the idea of GIs, with the hope that producer groups and associations would start looking at GIs as a means of protecting their traditional and cultural products.

In January 2002, one of these meetings took place in Goa. Co-organised by the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry and with various Goa Government officials, the meeting discussed the potential use of GIs in Goa and identified a range of possible products. Feni was nominated as the first candidate product and this also led to “caju” (cashew) being the adopted choice.

Over the next few years, the Government of Goa, especially through the Development Commissioner JK Dadu and later under the stewardship of the Department of Science and Technology, pursued a GI-application for Feni. An informal committee involving journalists and archivists, agronomists and scientists, and bottlers and distillers, was assembled. Details of the distilling process were scripted, its history was researched and collected, and chemical analysis was conducted and documented. In July 2006, the Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association was registered and they became co-applicants of the GI-application with the Department of Science and Technology. By March 2007 a draft of the application was ready. Officials from the GI Registry were consulted and meetings in Goa continued to deliberate on the application. Eventually, in December 2007 the application was submitted to the GI Registry in Chennai. Finally, on 05th March 2009, feni was registered under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act in 1999 marking a successful end to this process.

Source: Geographical Indications and Localisation: A Case Study of Feni by Dwijen Rangnekar