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A note on the issue: The search for authenticity

Goa's feni-makers are repackaging the traditional spirit for newer consumers across the globe

Feni is the best-known indigenous Indian liquor
Feni is the best-known indigenous Indian liquor

The slightly confusing and unseasonal rain in many cities may have thrown us off a bit, but it is May, the month of summer vacations. Holidays are usually a time for new experiences but the search for what is unique is no longer reserved for vacations. Our quest for the unusual, whether we are travelling or at home, is what leads us to try new foods, drinks, films, books and even clothes—we want to experiment while having an authentic new experience. 

Also read: The future of feni

It’s why Japanese gin or Mexican mezcal are sought after in India. Goa’s feni makers are taking a cue from this demand for the authentic and the unusual and are repackaging the traditional, regional spirit for newer consumers across the globe. Every visitor to Goa has heard of feni, yet few dare to try it since it has a reputation for leaving people with terrible hangovers. 

Our cover story is about the distillers trying to change the drink’s bad-boy image, the challenges they face and the missed opportunities they want to capture. They see potential for the drink to go global, as long as it is served right, and are putting feni into well-designed bottles, creating brands around the spirit and taking it to upscale bars and restaurants. On the other hand, the idea of turning feni into a “premium” drink is not without its detractors: They worry that this will make the drink lose its uniqueness, but most of the new-generation distillers are locals whose families have been in the business or in farming for years and are well aware of the spirit’s past and history.

Our big interview this week is with K.K. Shailaja, Kerala’s former minister for health, who is now known globally for her handling of the Nipah and the covid-19 outbreaks. “Shailaja Teacher”, as she is popularly known, has just released her very candid memoir, which tells the story of her life, the balancing act that politics is, and her family. She talks to Lounge about her politics, the importance of science, and the need for diversity.

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Also read: Nostalgia is the new cash crop of the season

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