Catching a (Wild) Tiger by its tale

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Gautam crop

“Have a rum-tastic day!”

That’s the distinctive catchphrase of Gautom Menon (pictured above), Chief Brand Officer, owner and driving force behind Wild Tiger Rum – billed as India’s first super-premium rum.

I met Gautom in London earlier this week, when he kindly offered me the opportunity to taste his product, this particular bottle clad in a delightful special presentation.

Wild Tiger made its Indian travel retail debut in February, and is also being launched in the UAE domestic market with another 15 countries targeted this year. It was conceptualised by Gautom who says it is India’s first rum to be produced from a blend of molasses and cane spirit.

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“Traditional Indian rum is usually just 100% molasses,” he says. “Wild Tiger predominately has the same base but it is also blended with some percentage of cane juice spirit, which gives the final blend a lot of aromatic notes and depth in flavour.

“For maturation, we use only American oak wood barrels from Kentucky, USA. We char the barrels to reactivate the wood and the many natural flavours in them are imparted into the spirit over time.”

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Gautom says he is trying to “capture the spirit of India in a bottle”. It’s another nice tagline, reinforced by its association with the tiger, India’s much-loved, much-endangered national animal. He has played a lead role in creating the Wild Tiger Foundation, an NGO charged with saving the tiger and its habitat in South India (to which 10% of profits will be donated). Incredibly, India had around 100,000 tigers in the mid-19th century. Today it has around 2,200, underlining the urgency of protection.

The rum’s packaging reflects the fact that no two tigers share the same stripe pattern – so the stripe design of the sleeve has been designed and cut to ensure that no two bottles are alike. The velvet tiger print sleeve is made using recycled materials and the glass bottles are made from recycled glass.

“India is one of the world’s biggest drink-consuming nations yet we have no real brand of our own,” says Gautom. “Mexico has the likes of Corona, Ireland has Jameson, Japan has its various sakes and so on. Why not India? We are the second-largest producer of rum, a category in which we see good global trajectory. Having decided to make our rum, I needed an emotional connection, which I found with the tiger.”

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Spiced and ultra-premium versions will follow once the initial launch is fully underway and Gautom, in common with all entrepreneurs, believes passionately in his product. “I’ve been dreaming about this for ten years,” he says with a wide smile.

He believes it is ideally suited to travel retail, both in India and offshore. “When you come back from a country you really want to pick up something to remind you of it,” he says. “India never really had that indigenous product. We also believe it will appeal to the Indian diaspora around the world.”

Later that night I sampled Wild Tiger. The cane juice does indeed balance and refine the more obvious molasses character. And the packaging jumps out as dramatically as a tiger seizing its prey in the jungle. It even comes with a nice variant on the standard ‘drink responsibly’ line – ‘Relish Responsibly’.

It’s a great (Tiger) tale, the kind I also relish hearing – and writing. Absolutely rum-tastic in fact.

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