One of the more fascinating threads that emerged on Twitter recently was by Siddharth Misra on Old Monk Rum. All thanks to that, we now know, this brand that many Indians revere has a fascinating history.
Misra says, Narendra Nath Mohan purchased the company in 1947 from the British who were leaving India. Until then, he used to work there and the entity was called Dyer Meakin Breweries, “Traceable to Edward Dyer, father of the notorious Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer—the man behind the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.” But by the time NN Mohan bought this company, it was less of Dyer and more of Meakin. HG Meakin came from a well-known brewing family of Burton-on-Trent, got this company listed on London Stock Exchange and expanded breweries across India.
“Now, someone will tell you this story that Nehru was in Shimla. And, NN Mohan asked him to have a look at their Solan-based brewery. Nehru refused to come.” Because the place was named after Dyer. “So, the name got changed as Mohan Meakin Breweries in 1966 (just that this happened after 2 years of his death).” The Mohans changed the name of the company in 1980 to ‘Mohan Meakin’ to look at other businesses as well.
As for the Mohan family, both of NM Mohan’s sons joined the Indian Army. “[I]n 1969, his eldest son Col. Ved Rattan Mohan took over, two years after facing a humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow.” Misra’s account has it that the Congress party fielded him and until then, the city hadn’t witnessed as much money being splurged on any election campaign. But he did get two terms at the Rajya Sabha and was awarded a Padma Shri in 1967 and Padma Bhushan 1971.
Old Monk Rum was his creation. “He launched it in 1954 after a visit to Europe, where he was very much impressed by the Benedictine monks and the liqueurs they produced. The name Old Monk was his tribute to them, though the jolly face of a tubby man that you see on the bottle is believed to be that of HG Meakin.”
Anyways, the Mohans did contribute to places where they were based. You have Mohan Shakti Heritage Park (in Solan). Then in the 1960s-70s, they also enhanced the natural beauty of Lucknow, by building parks along the Gomti river banks.
What gives Old Monk Rum the taste drinkers claim it has? “Well, some say since it was manufactured from the spring water of Solan, which was ideally suited for brewing, the liquor manufactured here has gained acclaim for its taste,” Misra writes on his thread. His full thread has more detail and TheBizdom that he maintains has many such compelling narratives.