Goa, the homeland of the much-loved feni, welcomed the All About Alcohol Museum in August. Conceptualized by well-known local businessman and antique collector, Nandan Kudchadkar, this unique museum is housed in an elegant Portuguese-style mansion near Candolim beach.
A variety of traditional glass vats and bottles for preserving liquor, as well as a collection of feni-related items, are on exhibit at the museum.
Bottles, glasses, antique manufacturing and distillation equipment from the 15th and 16th centuries, sourced from India and other parts of the world are also on display. In-house feni-sampling and pairing sessions are an added attraction.
Gomantak Times spoke to the founder Nandan Kudchadkar about what makes All About Alcohol so special and makes its a must-visit museum in Goa.
GT: How did the idea for an alcohol museum come about?
Nandan Kudchadkar: First of all, the pandemic hit us very badly, because of which we were content to simply stay at home. I have a large collection of alcohol-related items and always wanted to display them. I thought of all my travels to many countries, and realised that there was no alcohol museum in the world. And, that's where the concept came from!
GT: What was your objective?
NK: In Bollywood, Goa is portrayed as a filthy, binge-drinking state. But the truth is that we, Goans, are courteous and socially responsible. Goa continues to be seen in a negative light, and I wanted to show the world that we are blessed with not only culture and heritage, but also with our very own local drink, feni.
GT: Feni is the traditional drink of Goa. How did you manage to bring the legacy back?
NK: I travelled to many places like Scotland, South Asia etc and observed how alcohol was produced, brewed and handled, but nothing compares to feni. It is a prized possession of Goa; fruit of the earth and gift of the land! The method of producing the drink dates back to the Colonial era, and it is still done in the traditional manner. It is far better to showcase what we already have as a
treasure, rather than display international things. If we don't take the initiative to do something creative, then how can we expect to attract tourists. As I always say, 'Feni makes you fly!'
GT: Apart from feni, what are the other alcohol varieties in the museum?
NK: I am proud to be a Goan, and have always prioritised all things Goan. Why should I promote something that does not belong to me? However, we do intend to add a few more elements such as Prohibition era and sacramental wine, which is available in churches and is a source of pride in Goa.
GT: Speaking of collections, you have an amazing collection of unique artefacts and antique glassware. How did you select and exhibit all the material?
NK: I started collecting items when I was 14, knowing that they would not be available in the future. I wanted the next generation to know about the kind of things we had. Someone has to put in the effort to collect and display these items. This is how our ancestry, lineage, craft and tradition can be preserved. As you may be aware, glasses are extremely delicate, and some of them are decades old. As a result, they had to go through several procedures, many of which originated in Goa.
GT: What has the footfall to the museum been like?
NK: The museum opened two months ago, and attracts roughly 300 to 400 visitors everyday. We hadn’t anticipated such a large number! Initially, we had ensured that everything was free of cost, so that people could come and learn more about the museum. But eventually, we found that people would return time and again because we provided free shots! And so, we began charging an entry fee from 1st November.
GT: Any plans to add more displays to museum?
NK: I have several ideas and plans. I will be adding more rooms to the museum. I also intend to produce my own brand of feni called 'Salazar.' I have only about 25,000 - 30,000 bottles at the moment and many people are eager to taste it. So I'm thinking of keeping feni barrels, where visitors can fill their bottles to their heart's content before we seal and give them away. A feni fountain is also on my list of things to do.