God is a creation of humans, and Old Monk is the proof.
For many drinkers, sipping Old Monk is not just about having a pocket-friendly alcohol, it is nostalgia, a constant companion, ice-breaker, medicine and what not! This is the one bottle of alcohol that every bar in India will store. From teenagers to adults, every drinker shares memories with this dark rum.
Brig. Kapil Mohan, who succumbed to a cardiac arrest recently, was not much of a drinker himself. However, it was under his leadership that India’s beloved Old Monk reached the peak of its popularity. Since the early 1970s, the Brigadier had been successfully running the company until his death. A Padma Shri recipient, Mohan was a very spiritual man and did not deviate from the traditional methods of making the alcohol.
India’s favourite drink has had its own ties with the Indian history. Manufactured by Mohan Meakin Ltd., the company dates back to 1855, one of the oldest breweries in India. Edward Dyer is the man who pioneered the manufacturing of modern beer in the Indian subcontinent and also the father of General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer who was responsible for the infamous Jallianwala Baugh Massacre. He soon realized that this drink suited the populace of India very well considering the tropical climate. He soon established more breweries at places like Simla, Lucknow, Solan and Mandalay because of the growing demand of the drink.
H.G. Meakin, a contemporary, hailed from Burton-On-Trent. He was well trained as he came from a brewing family and founded Meakin & Co. Ltd. He bought the breweries in Simla and Kasauli and also established a few others. Both, Dyer & Co. and Meakin & Co. Ltd. worked individually until the 20th century. However, during the first World War, meeting the demands was a tough job. With the increasing demand, both these firms initiated a joint venture in the name of Dyer Meakin & Co. Ltd.
When Burma parted from India in 1935, they changed the name to Dyer Meakin Breweries Ltd. Eventually, in the year 1966, the company’s name changed to Mohan Meakin Breweries Ltd. and now, finally the company is now called Mohan Meakin Ltd since the year 1980.
The year 1949, however, turned out to be the most significant for the Company, with Padma Shri N. N. Mohan pioneering. He set up various manufacturing units near Ghaziabad. The same is now being handled by Mr. Vinay Mohan and Mr. Hemant Mohan, after the passing of Brig. Kapil Mohan.
Old Monk, their most widely sold product and one of the oldest rums, was launched in 1935. It has a very peculiar flavor, making it very easy for people to recognize. This dark rum is made in traditional fashion, using only the authentic rum components, among which, some could be as old as 50 years. It is then blended for a period of 7 years, maintaining the authenticity and taste of the Rum.
With flavours like chocolate, peach, vanilla and caramel, the aroma of this drink is deceptively sweet. The beverage contains alcohol of 42.8% and 40% in some, because of which the sweetness lessens. However, considering the percentage of alcohol, the drink is quite smooth. Vanilla and coffee beans have the most dominant taste, with a feel of rum stored in the oak barrels, giving it a very creamy texture.
Presented in unique handcrafted bottles, every bottle is different, but the taste and the feel remains the same. It is the most preferred by the seafarers as this bottle is steady as a rock, not tumbling even in the roughest of weathers. Though initially it was delivered in the conventional long bottles, the stout little bottle with a slim neck of Old Parr Whisky happened to be loved by Col. Mohan, the predecessor of Brig. Kapil Mohan. The bottles also took the Company to the court, but it was eventually decided that Old Monk will be bottled in transparent ones and Old Parr in the dark-coloured ones.
The name “Old Monk” was apparently inspired by a benevolent British Monk, who used to spend time around the barrels, enjoy tasting the rum and accompany the men crafting it. He learnt a lot about rum making during this time and ended up giving some really useful advice to the makers which helped in improving the taste of the rum a lot. Honouring the monk, they named the beverage after him, calling it the “Old Monk.” However, the chubby face on the bottle is supposed to be H.G. Meakin’s.
Being the most requested product in the duty-free shops, Old Monk has never really been advertised, unlike other alcohol beverages. It has gained its popularity only through the word-of-mouth. “The best way of my advertising is the product: When it comes to you and you taste it, you look at the difference and ask what is it. That is the best advertisement,” said Brig. Kapil Mohan had in one of his interviews.