[Hanoi Liquor Factory] A Tale of Two Monopolies
Given the social importance of rice alcohol in Vietnamese culture, from the French perspective in the 1890s, taxes on alcohol along with opium, and salt - were seen as the three ‘‘beasts of burden’’ (Peters, 2004, p 578) supporting Indochina’s general budget. Seizing this opportunity, the Fontaine Distillery, which owned a new fermentation process and some of the most advanced equipment of its time, oﬀered the government new hope in its struggle against evaders of the alcohol tax.
Opened in 1899, The Lo Duc Liquor Factory (then called R.A. Fontaine Distillery), as a part of the Société Française des Distilleries de l’Indochine (SFDI), was an essential cogwheel in the French colonial state’s alcohol monopoly. Under this regime, the colonizer forbade local people to produce and trade their own rice liquor (ruou ta), forcing them to buy the factory liquor (ruou ty) produced by the R.A. Fontaine Distilleries instead. Through its attempt to control an integral component of local people’s meals, rituals, and socialization, the French rule was felt across the entire Vietnamese society and culture. Over time, through the lens of Vietnamese revolutionists, the monopoly over rice liquor, and the factories where it was produced, became symbols of the colonial regime’s brutality.