Billed as the “world’s oldest naturally fermented, single ingredient spirit,” VSOA is a beverage that defies description or easy categorization.
VSOA is part of a group of spirits called arrack, which can can be made from just about anything (the better-known Batavia Arrack is made from sugarcane, like rum). This version (VSOA stands for Very Special Old Arrack) is made in Sri Lanka, and the amber liquid looks like whiskey or aged rum. But rather than being made from grains or sugar, it’s produced from the nectar of coconut flowers.
This nectar self-ferments without added yeast, after which it is distilled then aged in local Halmilla wood barrels for two years before bottling. Caramel color is added.
The flavor is light, delicate, and unusual. The closest analogue I can suggest is a watered-down, spiced rum, with a combination of sugary notes and slightly rough, phenolic notes — that pot-still funk — on the nose. Similar on the tongue: Very lightly rummy, with some baking spice, vanilla, and vague tropical notes in the finish. Coconut is there, but it’s faint. The finish is short, but there’s an aftertaste that lingers after the spirit itself fades — something akin to sandalwood.
The biggest challenge with VSOA is the body: very light and thin, it’s difficult to really get enveloped by. While the story behind it is intriguing, there’s just not enough ooomph to keep you excited.
B / $25