Rum That Roars: In Conversation With Gautom Menon Of Wild Tiger Rum | Stay Tipsy

By Mallika Dabke October 18, 2018
Wild Tiger Rum. Image source: www.instagram.com/wildtigerrum

For a country obsessed with rum, we haven’t explored the alcohol’s potential much beyond Old Monk. Enter, Wild Tiger Rum, India’s first premium quality rum by Gautom Menon. I spoke with him on length about his drink: it’s origin and everything it stands for. Read on to know more!

 

Tell us a little bit about you, and talk us through your story – how you started, and your journey so far.

I’m born and brought up in Coimbatore. Studied at Oxford. I’m a huge tiger enthusiast, avid traveller, cricketer and patriotic Indian.

At 21 I had just come back from the UK. At the time, my family was in the packaging business on a contract basis with other liquor brands. I was a complete teetotaller, hated the liquor business and tried to stay away from it as much as possible. Very reluctantly, I got involved to see what it’s all about and travelled to some of the big drink shows around the world. The one thing that I noticed was that pretty much every country or region was represented and had their own pavilions showcasing their spirits and liquor brands from their countries. In all of this I saw that India was missing, and that really bothered me. Despite being the 2nd largest drinking nation in the world we didn’t have one brand that represented the country.

I did some research and was amazed to find the origin of sugarcane and rum was actually from ancient India. Sugarcane spread from India in the 8th century to Mesopotamia, Madeira, parts of Spain in the 11th century, and it was Christopher Columbus who introduced sugarcane to the modern-day Caribbean in the 14th century. So, for me it was very clear that rum is the way ahead.

Where does your production happen?

Our rum is aged, blended and bottled in Kerala on the banks of the pristine Bharatappuzha River.

 

What is Wild Tiger’s USP? What are its standout elements?

Wild Tiger is India’s very first premium rum. Unlike most Indian rums, which are molasses based, ours are based on a blend of sugarcane juice and molasses. What the cane juice does to the rum is, it makes it pop. It adds a zesty flavour profile to the usually dark and dense quality that molasses adds to rum. Plain molasses rums aren’t so flavourful. Less than 2% of the rums in the world are cane based.

Another standout element about Wild Tiger is our packaging. Every bottle is covered with tiger stripes, and just like no two tigers have the same stripe pattern, each of our bottles have unique stripes, too.

 

What do you think people are looking for in a home-grown alcoholic beverage brand such as yours?

Every country is known for one kind of spirit and brand. America has Jack Daniels, Scotland has Johnnie Walker, Ireland has Baileys’ so I want to create a symbolic drink for India. We do have Old Monk, but it caters to a nostalgic memory that most Indians have attached to it. On its own, it’s not a great rum. I think India’s best kept secret is our sugarcane and rum. Rum is the true spirit of India. There are other regional drinks like feni or mahua, but rum caters to the length of the country. So, I think that’s what Wild Tiger wants to give to the country: an identity.

Tell us about your initiative the Wild Tiger Foundation.  

I have always been a tiger enthusiast and I wanted to use the imagery that comes with the name from the beginning. However, when we started out, I wasn’t aware about just how endangered tigers are. When I learnt that the situation is so bad, I have to give back, especially since we’re going to be using all this tiger imagery.

Through Wild Tiger Foundation, or WTF, we adopted two tiger reserves: Satyamangalam and Wayanard. Here we protect the tigers from cattle kill which is when villagers encroach on forestland so tigers have no choice but to kill cattle for food. The villagers, obviously upset, start poisoning the cattle carcasses thereby killing the tigers.  

To combat this, as soon as we get notified about a cattle kill, we monetarily compensate the villagers so that they don’t incur a loss and go kill the poor tiger, who’s just trying to survive.

 

Where can one purchase Wild Tiger Rum?

Wild Tiger is available everywhere in Kerala, in all liquor shops and bars. We sell at duty free on Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore airports. We plan to expand to Mumbai next year!