With its own loyal bunch of fans, Old Monk is a story by itself. The rush of being of age, sneaking away to bars on those rainy college days, celebrating small victories over a glass of local firewater, letting sobriety be forgotten. The lovers of hard drinks will argue it ain't any competition to their whisky or beer. But once the first swig of rum warms their parched throats, the whiskey will lie forgotten for the night. Once you've downed your Old Monk drink, there's only happiness to be found at the bottom of the glass.
The history of Old Monk Rum
Right from days of old, college go-ers, artists, writers, filmmakers religiously sat around squat bulbs in the dusky evenings to discuss world-changing ideas. If tribute was to be paid for the many novel classics and works, Old Monk Rum would certainly be acknowledged on the first page of every work of art. While the enlightened used the drink to their advantage, the aged used it to relive good times. For them, Old Monk was distilled from the sighs and tears of nostalgia - the nostalgia of good old times, good old music and good ol’ women! While the drink has given many a great story to tell, it is impertinent to know that rum has one of its very own.
In 1855, Edward Abraham Dyer, father of Reginald Dyer who was responsible for the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, opened a brewery in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh to supply cheap beer to the British soldiers. Over the next few decades, Dyer's company set up a number of breweries for this distilled cane sugar and eventually his company merged with another British brewery, Meakin and Co, run by HG Meakin. The original company went on to be something completely different, but Meakin's face has remained "the old monk" for decades to come.
The Old Monk of today
The brand Old Monk was finally launched in 1954 by Ved Rattan Mohan. It is said that after a visit to Europe he was smitten by the Benedictine monks and the liquors they produced. He thus went on to introduce a drink of distilled cane sugar, matured in oak vats for seven years and infused with spices. He called it Old Monk as a tribute to them.
Today, the original Old Monk is one of the top-selling rums and sold in six sizes, of which the quirky 1-litre bottle, in the shape of the head of HG Meakin, is definitely the pride of every Old Monk loyalist. Extremely budget-friendly yet effective, Old Monk has been the most adored dark rum in India since 1954. Known for its palatable soft taste comprising vanilla, cola, spice, roasted coffee beans, and caramel flavours, the drink is cheap, accessible, and absolutely a delight!
The Price of Old Monk and why it's so cheap?
To add to that, Old Monk is one of the most affordable drinks out there compared to beer, whiskey or those fancy liqueurs, and it’s sold at less as INR 300 per bottle in some parts of the country!
The reason for these super low prices is molasses. Sugarcane is used in the manufacturing of sugar. During this process, molasses is the by-product. This waste is used while manufacturing the rum. Seems like evidence to a 'best out of waste' scenario! Revealing why the price of the alcohol is so low, S N Maingi, deputy general manager - marketing and sales, Mohan Meakin, says “Our strategy is to launch Old Monk variants in maximum price segments to tap consumers of all income groups.”
Why Old Monk is called Old Monk?
If you've ever wondered about how the name of the drink came to be, well, it has but little to do with 'old monks' making the rum. The drink brings on the sentiment and nostalgia for the days of old, and that's the story behind the name. The name is inspired by the calm & serene life of Benedictine monks, who brewed this distilled cane sugar as they led a content ascetic life in the high ranges of the mountains. The drink went on to be the one people raised a toast with in good times and drowned their sorrows with, in the bad.
One of the top-selling rums, with a sale of roughly 8 million bottles a year, Old Monk isn't just a big deal in India. With a reach that has spread far and wide, Old Monk has a 400-crore empire and is exported to dozens of countries including the United States, UK, Russia, Germany, Canada, UAE, New Zealand, Japan, Finland. Through the years, the drink's popularity has grown among the armed forces, journalists, economists, industrialists and so on. This a commendable feat for a drink that did not advertise nor market itself. (Kapil Mohan believed that Old Monk's taste was its best advertisement. "We do not advertise. I will not, and as long as I am in this chair, we will not advertise," Mohan had said in an interview in 2012.) Today, Old Monk is the largest single liquor brand in the country, and one of the world's top-selling rums, second only to Bacardi.
Old Monk fans swear that it is great at curing colds, coughs, and other various ailments. While this may be just an excuse to have a swig, there is a certain element of truth to this.
Is drinking Old Monk good for health?
The drink has to offer a plethora of health benefits according to major distillery firms. A healthy heart tops the list. Drinking rum regularly in moderation can prove to be a great remedy for peripheral heart disease and avoids the formation of artery blockage. Along with this, it also helps lower the level of cholesterol in the body, which keeps diabetes at bay. A spoonful of rum every day keeps the colds away! This due to its anti-bacterial property.
The benefits don't just end there. People who are constantly dealing with muscle pain can have themselves a little swig to treat their pain. The logic behind this? A periodic consumption of Old Monk can help increase the bone mineral in the body which further assists in giving you relief from muscle pain. Some claim you could even extend your life span by 2-5 years, by having the drink in moderation regularly.
What makes Old Monk different from other Rum?
Old Monk is quality dark rum which is brewed by the traditional method and left to mature in oak barrels for a minimum of seven years. The organic beverage contains 42.8% alcohol content and has a smooth creamy consistency. Its taste has notes of caramel, chocolate with a hint of vanilla flavour creating a truly pleasant harmony. The flavour is unique because it's heavier, sweeter and a little more pungent.
However, what really sets Old Monk apart from the rest is that it is testament to the times it was sneaked into the hostel probably with a pack of cheap cigarettes, the first night after a breakup, the first time it was ordered with coke and a twist of lime at dinner, and many such tales of a number of generations. However, the drink now sees its sales waning.
Old Monk now Struggling to survive
According to data from International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR), Old Monk rum was the largest selling spirit brand in India between 2001 and 2003. However, it was overtaken by Bagpiper in 2004, by a narrow margin of 1.5 million cases. Experts hoped it was just a case of a bad year for Old Monk Rum, but since then, its rank has been slipping. It seems like it is no longer the favourite rum of India, giving way to McDowell's No.1. What caused Old monk to lose its status of number 1? Well, this owes to people's rising attraction to whisky and alternative rums, even though their import remains small in scale and sales.
The Monks, however, denied the claim. "It is a wrong notion that Old Monk sales have become stagnant. On the contrary, our sales are growing all over India. In markets such as West Bengal and Maharashtra our sales increased at 30 per cent in this current financial year," claims Vinay Mohan, director, Mohan Meakin. He adds, "We are the only company in the world that has different variants of dark rum, regular, 12 years, 18 years and 20-year-old gold rum."
This being said, a brand lives in a consumer's mind and the company would do good to re-invent itself to stay relevant. The company focused on catering to its traditional followers and this stood in the way of redefining the drink for modern times and tastes. If only the company were to use its old-world charm for new-age marketing to re-invent the brand, Old Monk would be young again.
Here are some ideas for you to bring back the fun element in your drink! Go experiment!
Hot Chocolate Rum
Ingredients: 30ml Old Monk, 150, l hot cocoa, 1tbsp whipped cream, 1tbsp sugar.
Begin by mixing some cocoa to rum. Add a tablespoon of sugar to mix this and stir well. Add whipped cream and sprinkle some chocolate chips. This drink is a delight and we suggest you use it to make up to a disappointed friend!
Ingredients: Old Monk, sugar syrup, chilled mango juice, chilled pineapple juice, lemon juice, cranberry juice and chilled soda
Add the Old Monk, sugar syrup, mango juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice and cranberry juice and stir well. Now add soda and ice and stir well. Decorate your glass with tiny umbrellas for beach feels.
Masala chai toddy
Ingredients: 1 cinnamon stick, 5 green cardamom pods, 5 cloves, 3 black peppercorns, 400ml water, 2 tea bags, ½ ginger roughly crushed, 4tbsp condensed milk, 5-7ml Old Monk
Start by adding all the spices except ginger to a pestle and mortar. Crush and mix. Boil some water and add tea bags along with the crushed spices and ginger. Add condensed milk and stir well, followed by Old Monk. Sieve the masala chai toddy and serve warm.
Ingredients: 60ml Old Monk, 15ml fresh ginger juice, 8 pieces of mint leaves, 60ml pineapple juice, 8 mint leaves, 60ml pineapple juice, 1 can of ginger ale, 10ml sugar syrup, 10ml fresh lime juice
Muddle the mint leaves along with sugar syrup and fresh lime juice in a tall glass. Fill up the glass with ice cubes. Add ginger juice, pineapple juice and Old Monk. Top the drink with ginger ale and garnish with candied ginger and a mint sprig.
Ingredients: 60ml old mon, 30ml coconut cream, 120ml pineapple juice, 30ml orange juice, nutmeg powder
Pour the rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice and orange juice into a shaker and shake well. Strain into a glass, add ice and sprinkle with a little nutmeg powder on top. You can garnish it with a slice of lemon or orange.
Ingredients: 50ml Old Monk, 30ml Lemon juice, ½ grenadine or cranberry juice, ¼ tbsp nutmeg powder
Fill half a shaker with ice and add all the ingredients. Shake well and pour through a sieve into a glass.
Ingredients: 90ml Old Monk, 120ml, warm water, 4tbsp honey, 3tbsp lemon juice, ½ tbsp lemon rind, 1 cinnamon stick and nutmeg powder
Add Old Monk, honey, lemon juice, and the lemon rind to a cup. You can also add a pinch of nutmeg powder (optional). Put a cinnamon stick in and pour warm water. Stir well to blend and sip slowly. This drink is known to be soothing for a cold or sore throat.
Ingredients: 40ml Old Monk,15ml lemon juice, 15ml orange juice, ½ tbsp sugar
Mix all the ingredients in a shaker and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a slice of lemon.
Ingredients: 40ml Old Monk, 90ml guava juice, 30ml coconut cream, 1 cup crushed ice
Pour all the ingredients into a blender and ensure that the mix is smooth. You can garnish the drink with edible flowers to pineapple slices
Ingredients: 45ml Old Monk, 10ml mint syrup, 5 ml fresh lime juice, 90 ml mango puree
Mix Old Monk with all the ingredients and stir well in a blender. Add some ice and top with some mint leaves and serve with fancy straws.
Have yourself a delight with these fancy concoctions!