Believe it or not, Monkey Shoulder's main man, favourite funny guy and self-proclaimed brand amBADASSador has only gone all bloody serious on us. Taking time out from the jokes to give us the cheeky lowdown on all things dram, Grant Neave lets us in on the gritty details and the future of Scotland's national nip.
What’s in a name? Surely, that which we call a dram by any other name would taste just as sweet? Well, apparently not. Grant tells us that the name is actually a reference to the history of whisky production: “one of the whiskies used in our blend still uses hand-turned barley - back when all barley was turned by hand, the malt men would develop a temporary repetitive strain injury in their shoulder, causing them to hunch over and giving them a posture similar to that of a monkey. Hence the name: Monkey Shoulder.
“It’s also not an overly Scottish sounding name. There was an intention to open up the whisky world to appeal a younger, wider audience - it has certainly helped having a name that the world beyond Scotland can easily pronounce.”
Monkey Shoulder is famed for championing the alternative - last year, they hosted a Popcorn Flip Night, which consisted of a bouncy castle, a metric ton of popcorn, three bars, a popcorn pit and four hundred guests invited through the Monkey Shoulder Social Club. In light of the their contrary essence, we asked: how should we be drinking Monkey Shoulder?
Grant’s answer was as to be expected: “drink it however you like - it’s your drink, your money and your night out. A lot of people enjoy a G&T, but that doesn’t mean they have to enjoy drinking straight up gin. Controversial, I know… but just because you’re not big on drinking whisky on it’s own, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a glass of the good stuff”.
With this in mind, Grant has been working on a Monkey Shoulder cocktail list: “as with any cocktail list, it’s a balancing actin which you need to offer a range of different drinks for a range of different tastes. Looking through old and new cocktail books helps to get the imagination going, inspiring new approaches to classic techniques and putting a modern spin on old recipes”.
Neave spent his younger years working between Edinburgh cocktail bars, perfecting his art and learning to contextualise his craft within the history of cocktail creation and the heritage of Scottish whisky. He tells us where he thinks Monkey Shoulder stands within the history of Scotland's national nip: “the whisky culture in Scotland is going through something of a revival, with younger consumers showing a keen interest in the category. The more traditional consumers seem to be opening up to experimentation: whilst they may still have their favourite dram, they’re trying Japanese whiskies, single grain whiskies and whisky cocktails. How do you explain this shift? It’s in part due to an increased availability of other blends, but also due to the knowledge of bartenders across all styles. Monkey Shoulder is aimed at the 24-35 age bracket, and I like to think that our approach to whisky and our work with bartenders is helping to aid the revival.
“Scotland is seen as the home of whisky. With so much history to Scottish whisky, and the plethora of distillaries to visit, it seems as though whisky has very much retained its tourist pull. Even those visiting Scotland without any prior interest in whisky will still visit a distillery, go to a whisky museum or at least visit a bar to sample the local dram".