Hansel Vaz, a geologist left his Fortune 10 company job in New Zealand to return to Goa, to breathe new life into this ancestral liquor distillery.

Eni and Goa have danced in a spirited journey since the 15th century. “Feni was first described by a Dutch traveller in 1585,” reveals Hansel Vaz, a second generation feni maker who has not just reinvented the plebian drink which could be “the world’s only unexplored exotic liquor” but Vaz’ Fazenda Cazulo distillery in the lap of a cashew orchard offers bespoke monsoon feni trails at their 100-year-old Cansaulim address.
Move over Scottish whisky tours, here’s an ancient feni enthusing woodfire experience. Witness feni’s antiquity in the “floating feni, distillery tour, tastings, degustation menus, and next, a music and spirited evening.”

Guests take in the beauty of table in the hills, with Cazulo feni, and bespoke cui-
sine at the feni tour at Fazenda Cazulo.

Finally, feni has its champion. Incredibly, Vaz, a geologist left his Fortune 10 company job in New Zealand to return to Goa – to breathe new life into this ancestral liquor distillery.
Walk into the distillery, absorb the fabric of a drink – “pungent,” “strong” to imbibe its distinct notes of cashew or coconut toddy, and revel in the rich history. When Hansel’s father Wilson Vaz’ Vaz Liquor Industries lay decrepit, ready to shut (the feni business – however they are still among the largest liquor suppliers), the elder Vaz sibling decided to transform this local spirit – bringing it from the fruit to the garrafao. No staunch Goan can resist its powerful notes, and Hansel was no exception.
The heritage trail walks you through a traditional making, a masterclass by mixologist Karl Fernandes, tasting with bespoke feni tours, which in the monsoon, are a joy to behold – the floating feni trail where the tasting is done ankle deep in a natural spring with a carefully handpicked anti pasto platter. Or foraging through the spice garden in the rain to pick local ingredients, a cellar with a magnificent collection of 1,000 year old garrafaos, a local meal or a epicurean one with Portuguese acoustic music – Hansel has been instrumental in giving feni it’s life back…. And a rekindle Goa’s history in a new bottle, designed to inveigle all.
Learn the intricate temperature determined feni craft, it’s eight century history, and character. This distilled labour of love needed a certain foolhardiness that Hansel had ample of, and immense pride in his ancestral business. The outlier first distilled a new bottle – Cazulo – suddenly, the sadly relegated to the back of the bar Goan spirit had pride of place! It gave feni a Mezcal-like persona. People the world over venture to these bespoke tours – royals, bureaucrats, politicians and very recently, even Japanese connoisseurs.
“We keep criticising the state on issues, yet as stakeholders, if we don’t take ownership, then who will?” asks Hansel. A few years into research to “recontextualise feni,” he killed the old brand, adding new verve, and a evocative narrative, Vaz is “unapologetic,” instead of what is the norm – apologetic about Indian culture.
Enhancing the finest aspects of feni’s bouquet, the beautifully designed henna-inscribed bottle with Goan colours – Cazulo (meaning firefly) took feni on a path self-discovery.
This game changer made it an “ambassador of the culture, people and place. “I didn’t want a vestige of my culture to be trivialised,” he adds. From beverage programmes with unique feni-accentuating cocktails like Tamde Rosa, invented by Vaz, incidentally a signature drink at Joseph’s Bar at Fontainhas, his younger brother too celebrates Feni with Bar Tesouro in Colva – incidentally rated the best bar in the country, and Number 4 in Asia!
Simplify this ancient spirit, your visit to Cansaulim is replete with history. Vaz,’ in a first, also set rules on feni tasting, with a tour of the distillery that is lush and copious. It is today, among the few distilleries with its history intact, unmodernised. The rich legacy of feni practiced over centuries, is unchanged here – “feni might be the only preindustrial liquor,” he adds.
These bespoke trails catapulted Facenda Cazulo into the top 50 distillery destinations. “After petisco, mezcal, lambagnog (Phillipines) went mainstream, feni (I think) is the only spirit that lies undiscovered – come discover it,” says Vaz.
The cellar, post Covid was not an option, so the improvised floating table in the water – a natural spring invites guests to sit ankle deep, with food paring of local ingredients, some even added to confuse. The stunning Al fresco experience heightens the senses. Soon on agenda is a gourmet dinner with music too.
“Evangelising of a spirit,” the foraging experience is one to rejoice in.” We live in a biodiversity hotspot, so picking ingredients offers one new flavour and a new perspective.”
On a sussegad afternoon, or evening, taste Cazulo’s Dukshiri, Indian sarsaparilla expressions, with a coffee expression to be launched soon. Just the start to the 26 botanical expressions of feni.
Taste the notes of mango, chilli, jackfruit, durian, a tropical whiff on nose and a spiced palate with cashew or a tart palate of a sake-soshu like floral bouquet with coconut feni here. “I started on this journey without realising how many lives it has changed – to imbue pride and confidence to feni,” says Vaz. And he has done that.
Facenda Cazulo, at Cansaulim
Cazulo Premium Feni Distillery and Cellar Tour & Masterclass
Feni tour, tasting, meals, masterclass, floating feni
Book on book.urbanaut.in/floatingfeni
Booking through Urban Naut only
Monsoon price: Rs 2,500 per person, bespoke prices vary
Two sessions 11.30 am and 2.30 pm.
Dinner at the distillery at 7 pm
Tour Time: 2hrs
All bookings only on appointment.