Everything changed for Karen Hoskin while she was traveling in India. Not because she fell under the spell of a yogi or went on a month-long pilgrimage to the country’s holy sites. It was a far simpler activity that proved to be just as transcendent. She ordered a glass of Old Monk rum in the beach town of Goa and tasting real rum for the first time. The spirit, a vestige of the country’s British era, has been made in India since 1954, blended and aged for at least eight years to imbue the dark spirit with a complex, deep flavor that was a far cry from the sugary-sweet rums Karen had encountered elsewhere. She could drink it straight—no need for the excess calories and saccharin tastes of a mixer—and the next day she wasn’t the least bit hung over. 

“I was just the unofficial rum ambassador for years,” she says after that first encounter.