Scotland has garnered fame for its Scotch, Russia for its vodka, France for its wine and so on.
India, though, still needs to garner global fame for its drinks and hence “we are working to take our heritage drinks on global map to fill this void,” said Surendra Pratap Singh, a scion of the ex-royal Mahansar family, which has been dedicated for generations to mastering the craft of making heritage drinks.
The name of the place, in fact, has become synonymous with heritage liquor.
Speaking to IANS, he said, “We have our footprints in Rajasthan, Haryana, Goa and will soon be entering Delhi and other states.
“In fact, we have plans to put our drinks in duty shops in Delhi and Mumbai airports too,” he said, adding, “The response to these heritage drinks is quite strong in different states. However we still wonder that when the Goa government can promote feni, why can’t we (Rajasthan govt) promote our heritage liquors which have centuries old pristine history.”
He informed that the most famous fan of heritage liqueurs of Rajasthan was ‘Sir Roger Moore aka James Bond’. When he was shooting the 80s Hollywood blockbuster ‘Octopussy’ in Rajasthan, he got hooked on the heritage liquor ‘Kesar Kasturi’ and he was instantly taken by its smoothness and rich flavour. The British actor mentioned that he loved this drink.
And First Man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong was the second man. When Armstrong came to Jaipur as a part of the Peace Corps, he enjoyed heritage liquor ‘Kesar Kasturi’ and he liked the taste of it. At that time, Ganganagar Sugar Mills was producing it.
Centuries ago, some rebel liquor alchemists and craftsmen from the royal thikana of Mahansar under the guidance of sages invented a new liquor made up of dry fruits and herbal ingredients as well as mutton, opium and some sort of poison as well. The liquor came out so strong that a drop of heritage liquor can beat a regular alcohol bottle, he added.
They used to make it in clay pots over the Bhatti’s (local distillery). Eventually, they came up with the liquor of Saunf (Aniseed). In British India the Mahansar family used to supply this liquor on camels to the Nawab of Bahawalpur and royal families of Sindh, Balochistan, Nepal till Attock where Alexander the Great first saw lush vineyards.
Mahansar Heritage Liquor, started being produced by the Mahansar royal family since British rule (1768). Thakur Durjan Saal Singh ji of Mahansar started the commercial production of Mahansar liquor for the first time in 1890.
These heritage liquors were based on secret formulas so zealously guarded that they could be known by other royal families only through matrimonial alliances.The brewers were also sworn to not share the secret with anyone and never break the liquor code, says Surendra Pratap Singh, adding that people these days are obsessed with single malt. We consume drinks which the Britishers left for us and consider ourselves superior. It is unfortunate that people consider anything from outside to be better, he stated.
Anil Singh, DGM, Shri Ganganagar Sugar Mills says, “Ever since the Britishers came here, they ensured that local liquor doesn’t gain recognition.”
In 1950, when monarchy ended this liquor was banned. Heritage liquor rules were then drafted as a part of the Excise Act in 2003 and the Act was enacted later, he informed.
Rajendra Singh Shekhawat, scion of the Mahansar family, says, “The high spirit drink was ayurvedic medicine which used to treat cholera and other diseases, it used jaggery and valuable spices.”
“By the 19th century Mahansar liquor was getting widespread recognition in the royal courts and princely states across the sub-continent.”
Now, we are trying to bring lost fame to this drink and have launched heritage liquors in rose, somras, narangam and cardamom, he added.
For the rose edition, we bring in the best quality roses from Pushkar, for narangam, oranges are brought from Jhalawar and Nagpur and for somras, we mix 21 spices, which include Kashmir kesar among others.
It’s better if we call it a health tonic. It is good that Mahansar is the first distillery to get a license as far as Rajasthan heritage liquor is concerned, said Jodhpur ex-royal Gaj Singh.
Surendra Pratap says, “A bottle of heritage liquor is a lot more than a bottle of alcohol, it reflects tradition, craft, history, royalty and Rajasthan. This drink gives you so much culture. So why not take it to a global platform.”