Last week, Brigadier Kapil Mohan, the man behind the iconic Indian rum brand, Old Monk passed away. Industry honchos spoke to IMPACT about their cherished Old Monk connection

15 Jan, 2018 by admin

‘The Monk who sold Happiness’ won’t be a wrong salutation to the person who has been trending on social media ever since news of his demise became public knowledge. Brigadier Kapil Mohan, Chairman, Mohan Meakin Limited, a Padma Shri recipient better known as the man behind the success of the iconic Old Monk rum, may have died of cardiac arrest, but his creation will course through the veins of generations to come as it has for decades in the past. Brigadier Mohan took over the reins of the company in 1970, and made it a business house with a turnover exceeding Rs 400 crore. He established Old Monk as a cult brand, most notably with zero advertising spends. In India, a country of ‘sasti daaru’ fans, an occasional Scotch from ‘jiju ka dost in America’ may be cherished, but the familiar bottle of Old Monk, often from ‘apna fauji dost’, is still the most celebrated drink - proof of that is the fan following which came to light after Brigadier Mohan’s death. Some of those fans belong to the advertising industry; let’s find out how deep their Old Monk connections run...



‘Old Monk has been associated with every meaningful moment of my life’

MD, Crompton Greaves Consumer Electricals Limited

I have been drinking Old Monk ever since I joined IIT Bombay in 1975-76, and it’s been my regular drink since then. Old Monk is special to me as I associate it with every special moment in my life - every celebration, promotion, end of exams, good result in sports, wedding, birth of my children, birth of my friends’ children, marriage, and now the marriages of my children. It’s been associated with every meaningful moment of my life - happy moments and even sad occasions. So, Old Monk is kind of part of me. People think Old Monk is a relatively cheap drink and I have to keep reminding them that it’s not. When I started drinking and first fell in love with Old Monk, it was rather expensive. The only reason I ever drank something other than Old Monk in my college days and early work days was because I couldn’t afford Old Monk!

During my time at P&G, when I was living abroad for many years, when anyone came to visit from India, they would always ask, “What do you want me to bring you from India?” My answer was always “Old Monk”. Eventually, people stopped asking me and would just bring me Old Monk when they came over from India!


I worked at P&G for 32 years. And when I left P&G, the farewell gift for me was 32 bottles of Old Monk. Obviously, they knew me well enough to dare not touch what’s inside the bottle, so they got the labels remade for me. That farewell gift would have been nice to keep, but I have kept only one unsealed bottle and the rest have been consumed over the years.

If I see Old Monk as a brand, as a loyal consumer, I love it - I think it is perfect, it’s an icon. It means so much. It’s an outstanding product. It’s the only drink which leaves me with a completely clear head in the morning! In fact, I remember that many years ago, I was working in the UK and I had an Irish person working for me who left the company and joined Bacardi. He was a good friend, so he knew all about my Old Monk stories. After joining Bacardi, he would keep trying to ply me with different dark rums. And I would keep telling him, “No, it’s not that I like dark rums - I like only Old Monk.” If I don’t get Old Monk, it doesn’t mean I will have another dark rum- I would probably drink something other than rum! It’s truly what people would call a ‘love mark’ in advertising and marketing. I know people talk about, ‘Oh, why hasn’t it developed? Why haven’t they branded and extended it into other things?’ and stuff like that which I guess will be valid from a business point of view, but all I know is I would rather they do not touch my Old Monk. In fact, today Old Monk is available in the old 750 ml bottle and they also sell a 1 litre bottle. I can’t handle the 1 litre bottle. The old 750 ml bottle is what looks like Old Monk to me and feels like Old Monk. So, it’s a powerful brand. By the way, my daughter loves Old Monk. So that’s her drink of choice too.

Now, with the demise of Brigadier Kapil Mohan, I fear people will try and get too smart with the legacy brand for commercial reasons. While that may be good for the business, as a loyal consumer, I hope they don’t do it till I die.

‘Not many will get the layered relationship that loyal consumers have with Old Monk’

Group CEO, Media & OOH, Madison World

I’ve been drinking Old Monk for 40 of the 63 years it has been in existence. I guess I qualify as a diehard loyalist. As a consumer, it is a brand I wouldn’t want any advertising agency to attempt, since they would never get the layered relationships, associations and memories that loyal consumers have with this brand. As a marketer, I am alarmed to hear that it has been de-growing at 6% annually for the past many years. I salute Brigadier Kapil Mohan for creating a small piece of history, and I wish his heirs the best in prolonging his legacy.


The Monk who started a cult

President, Rediffusion Y&R

Old Monk is not just a bottle of alcohol. It is a part of my growing up,  as I am sure it is a part of the lives of millions of others like me. During our wonder years, rum was part of every collegian’s initiation into the drinking ritual. For us, it was simple economics – ‘How to maximize the kick per rupee?’ Despite that, Old Monk had a hallowed and revered place in our hearts. Many rum brands have come and gone, but the Monk always remains a cut above. What started as a relationship in college, continues till this day. Notwithstanding the moving up in life and the evolution of tastes, there is still only one Old Monk. Till today, friends living in the UK, Europe and other distant places want me to carry a bottle for them when I travel. And mind you, these are people who have the best alcoholic spirits in the world available to them. Dear Brigadier Kapil Mohan, there are many like me in all walks of life who would speak about the brand with extreme fondness. Here’s to Old Monk’s continued iconic success – may the spirit live on! And let’s raise a glass to that. Cheers!



‘Old Monk reminds me of Delhi winters’

Executive Creative Director, Leo Burnett India

Old Monk has a special taste for me: I can taste my days as an army brat, huddled around a coal stove with hardened men who taught me to drink the hard stuff. It tastes of impulsive trips, and unplanned vacations; first break ups and first dates; first jobs and last days. Its flavour reminds me of Delhi winters, rented barsatis and college parties thrown on a whim. I’ve drunk it to celebrate good days, and I’ve drunk it to forget the bad ones. Old Monk has been an old friend. The kind that always introduces you to new ones.

‘I always have an unlimited stock of Old Monk’

Chief Creative Officer, The Social Street

For 38 years of my life, I never touched alcohol. And then one fine day, actually around 1 am on a winter night in Delhi, some friends came over and pulled out a bottle of Old Monk. They somehow convinced me to try it. That’s how my camaraderie with Old Monk started. And we’ve been going strong since then. Winters have always been my favourite season, but unfortunately in Mumbai, you hardly get to experience any. During the one winter I spent in Delhi, I realized how Old Monk is such an integral part of the season. Even after coming back to Mumbai, I didn’t give it up. I switch on the air conditioner during summers, and drink Old Monk to my heart’s content. I must say, it’s been a very special bond with this drink. It changed the meaning of partying for me and gave me endless (and very funny) memories to cherish. Once, after I was 10 (large) pegs down, I almost went to the kitchen to sleep, thinking it was my bedroom. I made some great friends over Old Monk. But I certainly never thought that I would end up becoming such good friends with the drink itself. Cheers to all Old Monk lovers, and you’re invited to my place any time to help me finish my unlimited stock of our favourite friend!

‘It has stayed relevant across generations’

General Manager, BBH India

My first memory of Old Monk was sitting at a dhaba outside my MBA institute IMI, with friends on a cold winter night, drinking Old Monk with warm water. That was my introduction to liquor and since then, there has been no looking back. A number of brands have been fighting for a share of throat, but only a few have managed to occupy a share of the consumer’s heart and memories. Old Monk is definitely one of those. What makes the brand very special to me is the way it has managed to transcend across various economic strata - I have seen college students and CEOs consume this brand with the same sense of pride. And it is amazing how this brand has managed to stay relevant over time. A college student today would consume Old Monk with the same affinity with which I did in my college days. To maintain that kind of brand love across generations is magical, and that too without any advertising money. So, if you are looking at a cult brand coming out of India, then look no further.


(Compiled by Srabana Lahiri and Neeta Nair)

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