Ceylon Arrack, the traditional spirit of Sri Lanka

Discover the fascinating journey of Sri Lankan Arrack (Ceylon Arrack), a timeless spirit distilled from the sap of the coconut palm, which has begun its journey to global recognition.

Ceylon Arrack

In previous issues of the magazine, we’ve explored native spirits from around the world, made from a range of unusual ingredients, including dried flowers and cashew fruits. In this issue, we turn our attention to Sri Lanka.

Nestled in the Indian Ocean, this tropical paradise boasts a rich tapestry of flora and fauna that testifies to the diversity of the Asian continent. What sets Sri Lanka apart is the country’s abundance of coconut palms, and the Ceylon Arrack or Ceylon Arrack carefully distilled from the sap of the flowers of this magnificent tree.

A century-old company

In our quest to discover the essence of this exceptional spirit, we spoke to Amal De Silva Wijeyratne, Managing Director of Rockland Distilleries, a family-run business that has embarked on a pioneering adventure to produce high-quality Ceylon Arrack. Rockland Distilleries is a privately-owned family business that has been in existence for almost a century (100 years in 2024) and also produces rum, gin and whisky, preserving its heritage for four generations.

Amal gave us an insight into the production of Ceylon Arrack, which she describes as “a finely tuned art of labour and love”. The process begins with skilled craftsmen, trained in their own school, climbing the coconut trees on the family farm. They carefully collect the sap, which is then naturally fermented to an alcohol content of around 7.5%.

The sap is distilled over a period of twenty-four hours before being aged in casks made from the precious Halmilla wood, native to Sri Lanka and southern India and considered the region’s equivalent of oak, giving Arrack its unique qualities as it sleeps quietly in the casks. Fascinatingly, it takes 10,000 square feet (929 m2) of coconut plantation to produce a single case of six 70cl bottles.

Like a sweet rum

Ceylon Arrack, a tasty spirit, has found favour with bartenders around the world, especially those keen to explore new dimensions in mixology. Its distinctive and original flavours have made it a popular ingredient with those who push the boundaries of cocktail creation. Amal tries to present Ceylon Arrack to rum lovers in this way: “It’s like a sweet rum, lightly aged and delicately flavoured, catering to the discerning tastes of rum lovers, making it a must-have for connoisseurs looking for a fresh and exceptional drinking experience.”

As the company prepares to celebrate its remarkable centenary in 2024, Amal shares with us an exciting glimpse into the future. Rockland Distilleries plans to launch a special edition Ceylon Arrack Single Estate, sourced from the finest coconut plots on their estate. This celebration marks a glorious moment in the company’s history and promises to be a treat for aficionados of this unique spirit.

Ceylon Arrack

Conquering the world

Ceylon Arrack has vast global potential and Rockland Distilleries is a strong supporter of this home-grown product. The company has already ventured into international markets, making its mark in countries such as Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, France and the UK, where the spirit has attracted a great deal of interest and appreciation. However, Rockland Distilleries is not content with the status quo; it is on a mission to introduce its spirit to more international markets, paving the way for its growth and global recognition.

Ceylon Arrack
Coconut sap is fermented in jars.

While we are witnessing the rise of indigenous spirits such as mezcal, which have gained global recognition thanks to the collaborative efforts of industry professionals and producers, our eyes are now turning to the future of Ceylon peanuts. The enthusiasm shared by local distillers and the global spirits industry gives an undeniable sense of anticipation for the journey ahead. We look forward to the growth and success of Ceylon Arrack as it continues to chart its own course on the world stage.

Ceylon Arrack

Share This