Old Monk, New Tricks: Why the Classic Rum Brand Doesn't Need New Flavours
We may be able to afford the oldest Glenlivet or Chateau Lafite Rothschild and the most expensive quadruple-distilled vodka, but eventually and always, we will return to Old Monk.
The iconic product Old Monk, a tribute to those men whom Colonel Ved Mohan saw and read about in his European travel, was thus born in 1954. (Photo: Facebook/@oldmonkestonia)
It’s not for nothing that Indian sybarites living abroad ask visiting friends and families for as much Old Monk that they can carry. From Seattle to Singapore, expat Indians have access to all manner of spirits and wines, aperitifs and digestives and more cocktails than Charlie Sheen’s. Yet despite this readily available litany of liquors, people still crave that bittersweet taste of misspent youth.
And it is this quality that defines Old Monk, as well as its users.
After the death of Kapil Mohan, the legendary chairman of Mohan Meakin, at the start of 2018, as well as the diluted presence of the brand in regional Indian markets, the company decided it needed a change, and become more, not sure, with it.
This is what probably prompted this singular brand to diversify into its newly launched “flavours” of Lime, Orange, Apple, Cranberry and Mojito. Presumably meant as an effort to engage with millennials, that new generation of consumers eager for “new experiences”, Old Monk seems to have forgotten its own brand legacy.
Jaded, explorative, and eager as we are, we still know old is gold. And that is what Old Monk is for Indians, no matter the demographic. It’s ours; it is our past, present, and future. It is what generations of Indians drank as broke college students, what we went on to drink as impecunious young professionals, it’s what we periodically will return to even as enriched titans of industry. If Amul is the taste of India, Old Monk is its spirit.
And that, dear Mohan Meakin, is why we don’t need orange, cranberry or even Mojito (shudders) varietals of Old Monk. That dark amber elixir, redolent with the flavor of aged molasses and a sense of timelessness, is irreplaceable as well as unimpeachable in our liquor lexicon. We may be able to afford the oldest Glenlivet or Chateau Lafite Rothschild and the most expensive quadruple-distilled vodka, but eventually and always, we will return to Old Monk.
And it’s not just for nostalgia, by the way, which anyone who has tasted that bittersweet symphony will know.
It’s also about indulging your baser instincts. Let’s be honest: honeydew sweet and potent as it is, Old Monk isn’t the most finely crafted liquor, it boasts of no elitism, nor does it cater to the high-end. It is what it is: cheap, fulsome, and embracive without judgement. Bad times at work, failed relationships, fights with family, wearisome weeks, or just another excretory day, Old Monk salves it all. When your garrulous friend says “Rum mitaye gum” (referring here to wretchedness, not Wrigley’s), rest assured he or she is referring to Old Monk.
Essentially, it is our return to a familiar place, a simpler time, and a less pretentious era. Requiring no Instagram filters or trending hashtags or any trappings, a drink of Old Monk is simply water or soft drink, a squeeze of lime, and the rum itself. It is all you need, it is everything you need, whenever you need it.
So please Mohan Meakin, do not make Old Monk go the way of the schezwan cheese dosa or the pizza parantha. You’re perfect the way you are, and you remind us that exact same thing.
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