|local rectified spirit. Sulai, Assam flickr.com|
|Assam State, India. country brew Sulai-preparation, en.wikipedia.org|
Sulai, generally stored in clear, glass bottles has a strong pungent odour that may cover the surroundings, so it is often brewed in fields or away from people's homes. The brew has very high alcohol content - 40% to 45% and is considered a rectified spirit, and this being due to the fact that it has not undergone multiple distillation
Sulai production has been around for centuries and during the colonial rule under the East India Company, in 1856 a tax had been levied on it called abkaree for production and sale of rectified spirit. The licence holder could not brew more than ten gallons per day.
Licensed distilleries were both private and government-owned. Brewing of sulai without a permit was and is against law that would invite fine and the law is still in force in Assam.
The drink is taken raw without adding water and the side dish is fried meat or any other curry and only people from the lower strata of the society drink this brew. It is commonly known as a drink of the 'lowly' classes. Elite people avoid this drink and it is below their dignity to drink it. It also goes by the name of tharra in north India, handia or pheni in NepalIn certain rural pockets, poor people are dependent on Sulai for their livilihood and and sell it to liquor stills (sulai bhatti) and private retail units. There are occasional tragedies occuring in Assam due to illicit brewing.