There are plenty of places to purchase alcohol in Colombo. Supermarkets, dodgy little wine stores, large liquor shops, 'special' delivery services, and so on. Thank God we're not in Tamil Nadu. But in spite of our happy facility to procure a beverage, we still scurry to press duty free shopping lists into the reluctant palms of travelling friends and family. For Sri Lankan fathers and uncles everywhere, nothing beats the taste of a tax free Black Label.
The opening to this may appear to imply that we've actually found a place to purchase the discounted elixir. Alas no, sorry. But what we have found is a shop that feels
like being in Duty Free - until you pay.
Victorias (no apostrophe, apparently) Wines and Spirits has been around for ages but we only noticed it last week, just after it had undergone rather extensive renovation. We were drawn in by the sleek glass windows and soft lighting, and seeing the bottles displayed carefully like paintings rather than piled up in dusty corners (Ariyapala, we love you, but you do make us sneeze). Victorias Wines is clearly a posh place to buy your booze. This isn't where we'd go for the weekly Lion run, but if you want to buy a special gift or if you've got some rupee, this is good.
The selection. They have some interesting bottles, the kind you're unlikely to find in your average Keells liquor section or wine store. Midori, a melon liquer; plenty of the elusive Ceylon Arrack
which we personally didn't like but seems to be quite popular; Hendrick's Gin, what the guy in 50 Shades Of Grey drinks (but still excellent despite the unfortunate association) - and absinthe.
I don't quite know what the deal with absinthe is. Is the stuff you get today the same as what the Paris hipsters drank during their green 19th century haze? I'm not really sure. They sell two types of La Fee Absinthe at Victorias, a less potent one NV Absinthe Verte, at 38% and Le Fee Absinthe Parisienne at an intimidating 68%. Both are distilled with Grand Wormwood, if that means anything to you.
Seems interesting, and we'd like to try it one day. But a 500ml bottle costs almost Rs. 4500, so that day isn't going to be any time soon. However, if you can afford it, why not. Today is Halloween, and if you're having a party and want to serve up some ghoulish green drink, absinthe or Midori could prove ideal.
Anyway, as we mentioned above, Victorias Wines isn't the place to get your weekly brew, nor is it good for a discount. It is, however, a great place if you've got some cash, want to browse at leisure without being leered at, or if you need to pick up something nice for a special occasion. In any case, it's worth a quick peek.
They have a large selection of wines, Italian, French, Australian and so on, but local beers are sold at a significant mark up.