Ugar Sugar Works Ltd was established in the year 1939. It is the flagship Company of the Shirgaokar Group. The company has been involved in the manufacture of white crystal sugar for over 80 years. The distillery was set up in 1962. It produces one of the finest Rum in the country. They are also one of the few manufacturers of Indian Single Malt Whisky. Shrikant Hajare is the Managing Director of Baumgartner India Pvt Ltd. He manages all the premium portfolios of Ugar.
TRL: What does the rum mean to you? What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
About sixty years ago Ugar Khurd was a small hamlet in the erstwhile princely state of Sangli in the West of India. It was blessed with two advantages – On its south, there was the perennial river Krishna and on the north was situated a railway station.
Conditions were ideal for somebody to harness the two advantages and exploit the fertility of the loamy soil. The then ruler of Sangli invited the family – to embark on the unexplored venture, which they did with great dexterity, and the slumbering village of Ugar Khurd was transformed into a humming industrial township in a few years. Today, Ugar is a sugar manufacturing-focused township with large areas under sugarcane cultivation. There is a research center that works with the government to produce quality seeds.
TRL: Three essential characteristics that define the rum according to your perspective.
Ron De Ugar Classic – Mature Hand Crafted Rum is a Single Estate Rum.
It is blended using mature rums aged between three to five years. A sipping rum that has been slowly mellowed in our Oakwood casks. A medium-bodied rum with a delicate aromatic character, definitely easy for everyone. Its lightness and freshness make it ideal for warmer months too. At Ugar 5 different varieties of sugarcane are used, giving the blend fruity and buttery notes. Aged in oak-wood barrels, it tastes like those beautiful vanilla notes. The longer it spends in the barrel, the more the vanilla influence and the smoother the rum becomes.
TRL: What is the most important contribution you have made to the rum industry?
Interestingly, India’s connection with distillation goes back to at least 1500 years. While there have been many mythological references to sugar cane as an important crop in India, the accurate history of distillation seems to be uncertain. Yet, the official records on the history of alcohol consumption in India are obscure. While we have been producing rum for over 60 years, it’s only last year that a mature rum in the premium category was created, which we are very proud of.
TRL: What’s another thing you are passionate about, in addition to rum? Why?
I love traveling and experimenting with local cuisine across the globe.
TRL: What is your favorite place for drinking rum?
Goa, India in the rains.
TRL: Favorite drink + Recipe
My favorite cocktail is the Rum Punch, made from tropical fruits available locally.
Recipe – 45 ml of Ron De Ugar Mature Handcrafted Rum, locally sourced fruits like pineapple, orange, lime juice, and pomegranate juice into a shaker with ice, and shake until well-chilled. Then strain into a tall glass over fresh ice and garnish with a slice of orange and a sprig of mint.
TRL: Why is it important to educate the rum consumer?
The premium rum segment in India is in its nascent phase. In India, there is an affluent middle class with a growing disposable income and appreciation for premium homegrown rums. There is a willingness to spend more money on high-quality products and look for unique brands. Premium alcohol is no longer associated with just formal and celebratory social settings, but is identified as a category that is a part of informal and everyday socializing. It will take a few years, but ultimately consumption of premium Rums will grow exponentially.
TRL: Any tips to train the palate and taste good premium rum?
The experiment is the key – you need to experience more to expand and grow your palate. As you drink through the evening, take a few moments to focus on what you taste, and really think about the flavors your drink has.
TRL: Who would like to meet in the rum industry? What would you say to him/her?
I would like to meet stakeholders of the Rum Industry to share and exchange knowledge and ideas. That will bring about a kind of revolution.
TRL: What are your next goals in the rum industry?
According to market reports, rum consumption in India has declined over the last few years while the demand for other alcoholic beverages like gin has grown. But this is because the Rum Industry has only brands in the lower price spectrum – There are only a few in the premium category. However, there’s palpable excitement for dark alcohol in 2022 with the introduction of a few premium rums.TRL: Plans you have when you leave the rum industry.
To see many Indian premium brands available across the world.
TRL: Why is the role of the bartender important in the rum industry?
As bartenders work directly with customers by mixing and serving drink orders it’s their responsibility in knowing alcohol pairing and tastes depending on which part of the world they live in. Also, knowing how to make traditional and classy drinks. Innovation is the key to them.
TRL: What is your advice for new generations in the rum industry?
As its traditional fan base ages and consumers become more category-curious, the premium rum industry should recruit a new generation through flavor innovation, alignment with cocktails, and digital marketing. With its existing consumer base aging, and increasing competition from world rum and other drinks categories, reinvention has become a necessity for Rum if it’s becoming relevant to a younger audience.
TRL: How can people learn more about you? Website? Social media page?
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