Legend has it that when Major-General Amar Singh’s son-in-law, Rajasahib Karni Singh of Gadi Thikana, was on his deathbed, after long exhortations the royal physician threw up his hands and asked one and all to pray. But then, the royal brewer asked for permission to have one last shot at reviving Rajasahib. He administered ‘Chandar Haas’, a special liqueur whose brewing secrets were known only to this royal household. And, sure enough, Rajasahib was back on his feet in no time.
Such stories of alchemic miracle abound among the royal households in ‘Rajaon ka sthaan’. No wonder then that the families took their liqueurs seriously. Some of their brewing secrets were so tightly guarded that they could only be let known to another royal family when linked by a matrimonial alliance. The brewers, who were handed down the secret techniques by their forefathers, were also sworn to never break the liqueur code. The exotic ingredients used included aniseed, mint, honey, coriander, orange, lemon, grapes, apple, rose, cumin seeds, saffron, cardamom, cinnamon and peppermint.
But not every brew was a secret — some had found big clienteles as far as Bihar. Rajendra Singh Shekhawat, scion of Mahansar, says, “Some royal liquors were transported on camel-backs in clay and iron containers. They were popular among the thekedars of Bihar.”
Before Independence, every royal family had patented brands. But the Rajasthan Excise Act of 1952 banned such booze. The royals pleaded and cajoled the government for lifting the ban. The state government lifted the ban on some of the brands in 1998, but classified them under the desi category as their alcohol content was more than 78 per cent. This miffed the royalty and a compromise was struck: ironically, they would be branded as Indian Made Foreign Liquor but the alcohol level would be toned down to a maximum of 47.5 per cent.
Today, there is more irony to the story. The former rulers of Jodhpur, Kanota, Sheopur and Hadauti, who once guarded the receipes with pride, have sold some of them to Ganganagar Sugar Mills. The company’s general manager OP Yadav says, “We convinced the royal families about the protection of the secrets of the formulae.... Their sales have increased from Rs 1.4 lakh in 2005-06 to Rs 236.9 lakh in 2007-08.”
Shekhawati Heritage Herbals has started brewing royal liqueurs in 2006 with three brands: Maharaja Mahansar, Maharani Mahansar and Royal Mahansar in March 2006. Raghuveer Singh, the promoter, says they are based on “aromatic patterns” of herbs, spices and fruits.
Krishna Kanwar of Badangarh says he is getting a royalty of Rs 25,000-30,000 a month for sharing one receipe with Ganganagar. “Not a bad beginning,” he says. As they say, pride goes before the fall.