Feni (sometimes spelled fenno or fenim or fenny) is a spirit produced in Goa, India. The two most popular types of feni are cashew feni and toddy palm feni, depending on the original ingredient; however, many other varieties are sold. The small-batch distillation of feni has a fundamental effect on its final character, which still retains some of the delicate aromatics, congeners and flavour elements of the juice from which it was produced.The word feni is derived from the Sanskrit word phena ("froth"); this is thought to be because of the bubbles that form a light froth when the liquor is shaken in a bottle or poured into a glass. It is generally accepted that coconut feni was produced before and then followed to adapt the same procedure for distilling the exotic cashew fruit. Coconut palms are abundant along the coastline of Western India and Goa, whereas the cashew tree was an exotic species brought by the Portuguese from Brazil to India. There is ambiguity about when and who started distilling fermented juice into a spirit.
The feni consumed in South Goa is generally of higher alcohol content (43-45% abv) as compared to the feni produced in North Goa. Commercially packaged feni is available at 42.8% abv.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 "colmbi" 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 Stomping has now gradually been replaced by the use of a press called a pingre (cage).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-patted into small mounds traditionally using a particular vine, nudi, which is snaked around it to hold it together while a heavyweight (typically a boulder) is placed on top. The juice produced through this second extraction process is known as neero, and is refreshing to drink; however, it is not used in the fermentation process generally for making feni. The first juice extract, obtained by stomping cashew apples, is transferred 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 Delicate earthen kodem have now been replaced by plastic drums for the sake of practicality.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.Cashew feni is distilled employing the traditional pot, which is still practiced. A traditional still for 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-distilledCoconut feni, also known as "madd", is distilled from fermented toddy from the coconut palm. Traditionally toddy is collected from the coconut palm by a toddy tapper called a "rendier". Toddy tapping—the collection of juice from the bud or spadix of palm tree flowers—has been practiced in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia for centuries. The sap of the coconut palm is collected in an earthen pot called a zamono or damonem, which is fitted over the spadix (ipoi) that grows out of the base of each coconut leaf. In order to produce toddy, the spadix is tightly bound with a rope (gofe/gophe) made from filaments (vaie) cut with a small knife (piskathi) from the base of the leaf, while remaining attached to the pedicle. The spadix then must be tapped all around very gently with the handle of the kathi'! (a flat semi-circular sickle) every alternate day until it becomes round and flexible, a sign that the sap is ready. The tip of the spadix is then cut off to let the sap ooze out into the damonem.
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