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Posted at: Jan 14, 2018, 12:01 AM; last updated: Jan 14, 2018, 12:01 AM (IST)

The Old Monk man is dead. Long live his spirit!

Rajeev Jayaswal
The Old Monk man is dead. Long live his spirit!
Illustration: Sandeep Joshi

Rajeev Jayaswal

ON December 19, 1954, at the erstwhile Dyer Meakin Breweries in India, a dark rum was born, which was fondly called Old Monk. Nurtured under a strict disciplinarian, Brigadier Kapil Mohan (rtd), it was destined to become a personality cult — velvety, silky, chocolaty-brown guru of spirits that releases an intoxicating aroma that reminds of lovely vanilla — known for its consistency. The custodian, Kapil Mohan, instilled steadiness in Old Monk that remained its character even after six decades. Nothing changed, not even its short-stocky shape, but its curator is no more. Mohan died on January 6.

Social media mourned the death of the teetotaler who knew what exactly excited the tipplers. People from all walks of life — including students, actors, unknown executives, struggling artists and not-so-popular journalists — shared their grief on twitter. The old monk ruled hearts mainly because of its affordability and character of defiance.

Snobs are those rich and powerful who drink single malt whiskies distilled in the Scottish valleys. I have witnessed the height of snobbery, when an influential, but not a rich person (identity withheld) insisted on having Old Monk with coke at an elite party. There are instances when journalists braved the chilling winter of Davos (Switzerland) during the World Economic Forum, with the help of Old Monk. Interestingly, they carefully carried their supply all the way from India.

Indeed, Old Monk has made Kapil Mohan immortal. According to the company’s website, Old Monk’s lineage is traced back to Edward Dyer, who had set up a brewery at Kasauli in 1855 under the banner of E Dyer & Co. He was the father of Colonel Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, the notorious butcher of the Jallianwala Bagh. During the same period, HG Meakin, another enterprising man, founded Meakin & Co Ltd and built breweries at Dalhousie, Ranikhet, Chakrarta and Darjeeling. They both joined hands to form Dyer Meakin & Co Ltd. Later, in 1949, NN Mohan took control of its affairs. The company was rechristened as Mohan Meakin Breweries Ltd on November 1, 1966. It is now known as Mohan Meakin Ltd.

NN Mohan set up a big industrial hub — Mohan Nagar — near Ghaziabad, UP, and his family exerted considerable influence in the state politics. The company grew to become a Rs 400-crore venture under the stewardship of Kapil Mohan, who ran it in his unique way. He was against any advertisement — either in print or electronic. He was confident that products from his company — Old Monk, Golden Eagle and Solan No.1 — did not require any advertising push. Initially, he saw success. Old Monk became the No. 1 rum brand in India and the No. 3 in the world by selling around 8 million cases. But, the conservative marketing strategy could not withstand the new wave that needed bubbly, young and agile brand image. Old Monk slipped to about 3.5 million cases and lost its top position to Bacardi.

For almost a decade, the company has been making efforts to re-establish its lost glory under Kapil Mohan’s successors — Hemant and Vinay Mohan. They have been able to push the sales of iconic Old Monk to 5 million cases.

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