My first taste of booze in Bhutan felt like a massage in a cup. It remains customary to serve guests Ara, a homebrew of fermented barley and precious red sandalwood. Now slouching on the back wall of the farmer’s living room, I warmed my aching feet by the Bukhari stove as my guide, Tashi, started translating the remarkable story of my host’s young son, Nyinda.
“He’s the reincarnation of their old neighbour,” she said. When he was very young, Nyinda made it clear he used to live next door. He knew the names of the dead man’s children. When Nyinda’s great uncle later shacked up with his widow, he called him a traitor.
Tashi asked if I’d like to see how Ara was made. My eyes lit up. We fetched a bucket of fermented grain from the pantry and took it outside to a wood-fired pot still, already simmering.
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