8 Lesser Known Facts About India’s Unofficial National Drink: Old Monk

Nothing unites India like a peg of Old Monk and bowl of chakna. It’s the rum that most Indians swear by, regardless of caste, class or creed. So on its 63rd anniversary, here are some lesser-known facts about the great “Budha Sadhu” to ponder over while you sit back and raise a toast.

1. Surprising Origins

In 1855, a Scottish entrepreneur named Edward Abraham Dyer set up a brewery in Kasauli to produce cheap beer for the British in India. Around the same time, a brewery called Meakin & Co. Ltd. was also set up by a man called H.G. Meakin.
Both these firms operated independently till the mid-1920s, after which they started a joint venture called Dyer Meakin & Co.Ltd. In 1949, when the late N.N. Mohan took charge, a big industrial hub near Ghaziabad (U.P.) was built to run the business.

Old Monk, a vatted dark rum with a distinct underlying vanilla flavour was officially introduced in 1954 and the company was renamed Mohan Meakin Limited in 1966.


In short, Scotsman Edward Abraham Dyer gave India both – her favourite Friday night drink and her worst nightmare. You see, he was also the father of Colonel Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, the man responsible for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar.

2. Always A Winner

Old Monk had been awarded gold medals at Monde World Selections since 1982.


3. Beauty In All Shapes And Sizes!

The 7 year aged Old Monk, the original and still the most popular variant is sold in six sizes. The quirky 1-litre bottle, shaped like the head of HG Meakin, is something you’ll definitely spot on the shelf of every Old Monk loyalist.

4. A Collector’s Pride

Besides the legend, Old Monk also produces several other rums including white, flavoured, Gold Reserve and Supreme Varieties. The Old Monk Supreme XXX Rum comes in a bottle in the shape of a standing monk. The cap of the bottle, or the monk’s “head”, doubles up as a peg measure.

5. Loved By The Masses

Did you know that Old Monk was once the third largest selling rum in the world? And it’s never been officially advertised even once!
It’s incredibly amazing then that the rum achieved cult status in India, with its own fan club in Mumbai called COMRADES.
It stands for Council of Old Monk Rum Addicted Drinkers and Eccentrics and was founded by Ian Pereira, a commercial photographer who’s been obsessed with the blend for the last 27 years.

6. Something For Everyone!

If rum doesn’t float your boat and beer brings you cheer, here’s news for you. Mohan Meakin Breweries also manufactures an Old Monk 10000 Super Beer. It has an alcohol volume of 8% but is apparently sold only in Goa.

7. A Global Thirst-Quencher

If however, you’re a rum loyalist like me, know that your next sip is never far too away (almost) anywhere you go because Old Monk Rum is available in several countries across the globe and also online. In the USA, though, the alcohol content is 40% as against the 42.8% in the Indian version. Also, the Army issue alcohol content is 50%, in case you were wondering why it hits you faster. (I did!)

8.  Since its launch, Old Monk hasn’t changed one bit.

Whatever the potency, here’s another fact that’s assuring. The classic blended chocolate-brown rum in its distinctive bottle – fat and short and stippled, tastes exactly the same as it did all those years ago. In this ever-changing world, I think that’s definitely something to be thankful for.


See Old Monk is the rum you raise in a toast to the good times. It’s the rum you drown your sorrows in at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. It’s the rum you buy in copious quantities when you need to to get sloshed because it’s economical and it does the job well.
It’s no surprise then, that without a humble bottle of our unofficial national drink, no bar in India would quite be complete.

Cheers to the Budha Sadhu!

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Amanda Francesca Mendonça

After spending pretty much all of my teen years waiting for a Hogwarts letter that never came, I gave up and settled for being a wizard with words instead. A hopeless romantic, when I’m not penning down short stories, I’m busy imagining my own happily ever after.

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