In the forests and national parks of Madhya Pradesh, the sweet scent of mahua flowers is a common and familiar one. Stout, broad-leaved mahua trees abound in the region, and for indigenous tribes like the Baiga, this is the tree of life.
Locals have distilled and consumed the spirit of mahua—made by fermenting dried mahua flowers—for decades. The British considered the spirit a threat to public health and banned its distillation and the limitations continued even after India gained Independence.
For the longest time, Mahua liquor was considered “country liquor” rather than a proud Indian craft spirit. That is slowly changing. In 2021, the government of Madhya Pradesh declared mahua as a heritage liquor. And now, in 2023, comes Mond—the first Mahua spirit in India distilled by indigenous tribes.
How is it made?
Mond is created by the Bhil and Bhilala tribes, who live in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra. The self-help group that produces Mond is based in Katthiwada in the Alirajpur district on the borders of Gujarat. “In the traditional Bhil home process, they simply soak the dried mahua flower, which is naturally sweet, in water and keep it in a dark place.
The yeast, already in the vessel from previous batches, starts working and the mash is ready in about five days in summer and more in winter. This is then put on a fire and distilled. The resultant spirit is slightly cloudy and consumed within a few days,” says Aniruddha Mookerjee, Madhya Pradesh Government’s advisor for heritage alcohol. The process they use to create Mond follows the same principles, but with the addition of modern techniques that help with temperature control and quicker fermentation.
This tribal empowerment project has been in the works for three years and involves the participation of two self-help groups—one in Kathiwada of the Alirajpur district and another in Bhaka Mal of Dindori district. The latter are currently working on another mahua liquor called Mohulo.
Members of the self-help group were offered special training on the basics of distillation and once the units have been fully set up, they will be handed over completely to the tribal groups to nurture local entrepreneurial and alcobev talent.
What does it taste like?
“This homegrown, organic spirit has no additives or artificial flavours and is made by people who understand the essence of its flavour,” says Mookerjee. On the palate, the drink is smooth with earthy and floral notes that come from the mahua flower. As per Mookerjee, the flavour is comparable to that of Mezcal or gin. The drink has 38% ABV.
What’s the best way to drink it?
Mookerjee recommends enjoying Mond on the rocks, with a dash of soda and a slice of Gondhoraj or Italian lemon. It also goes well with tonic, lemon and crushed ice or ginger ale. If you’re feeling experimental, Mookerjee recommends freezing it and pouring it like a shot.
Mond is currently available at all Ambi Wine shops across Madhya Pradesh at Rs800 for a 750ml bottle