The man from the top of the tree
yelled down at me frantically
making a gesture with his arm.
I politely waved back and smiled.
He kept yelling at me.
I asked a boy some yards away
“What’s he yelling about?” and he replied,
“The man say you standing
next to a cobra”
Mesh & Bone Arakku
Distilled coconut nectar, filtered water
To prevent confusion, it’s best to start with what Mesh & Bone arakku is not. It’s not the Indonesian Batavia arrack, the spirit distilled from sugar cane and red rice. It’s also not Mediterranean arak, the anise-flavored liqueur. The tastes and methods of production for arakku are completely different, and they are not substitutes for each other. Mesh & Bone arakku is a one-of-a-kind spirit made only in Sri Lanka.
The production of Mesh & Bone arakku revolves around the fermentation and distillation of a single ingredient, the sap of the flowers from coconut palms (Cocos nucifera). Each morning at dawn, men known as toddy tappers scale enormous coconut palms specially grown for arakku production and collect the sap of the coconut flowers at the top of each tree. They move carefully from tree to tree along a network of ropes (not unlike tightropes) strung between the treetops. Each tree produces up to two liters of sap per day.
Due to its concentrated sugar and yeast content, the collected sap naturally and immediately ferments into a mildly alcoholic drink called toddy, known in Sinhalese as raa. Within a few hours after collection, the toddy is poured into large vats, called wash backs, made from halmilla wood, a species native to Sri Lanka. The toddy ferments in the wash backs until its alcohol level reaches 5 to7%. It is now ready for distillation.
Distillation takes place in an apparatus called a copper column pot still. The initial distillate is 70% alcohol by volume (ABV), or 140 proof. Then the undiluted arakku is transferred into halmilla-wood barrels and aged for up to 15 years, which softens the flavor and gives the arakku complexity and richness. When barrel aging is complete, filtered water is added to the aged arakku to bring its ABV to 34%, and final blending takes place. The arakku is then ready for labeling, bottling, and shipping.