I am a big fan of seeing whisky celebrated in less than traditional environments. Goodbye fireplace, hello warehouse!
In 2012, one of the companies that really stood out in its ability to liven up this spirits category was blended brand Monkey Shoulder with its For One Night Only and Monkey Shoulder Social Club events. I didn’t manage to make them all, but those I did get to – such as the event where they attempted to recreate New York inside a warehouse and another where both the bingo and the cocktails got rebellious – were all rather grand fun and exposed whisky to a young, trendy, quirky set of consumers.
I recently managed to get the company’s hyperactive, highly busy global brand ambassador – Dean Callan – to sit still for five minutes to tell me what plans are in store for 2013, and I can reveal it is sure to be as exciting as last year.
The first For One Night Only event to kick off the season on the 21 March with the Malt Jockey themed evening. The location is still a secret, but guests (who win tickets by entering a draw or buying them through the website at a cost of £15) will be able to race remote control horses around a giant hay bale, learn to make Monkey Shoulder cocktails and eat food from the delicious Street Kitchen. More FONO events will be announced as the year goes on.
Dean told me that the reason the events have returned is because they are a way to showcase Scotch to a different consumer group.
“The key thing we were trying to achieve is making Scotch approachable, to show that you can have some fun and say you don’t have to sit in front of a fire sipping it at cask strength – it’s not all serious,” he said.
While some people in the whisky world may not agree with making the sacred drink into an irreverent spectacle, Dean said that once he explains to naysayers what the brand is trying to achieve, they normally understand things a lot better.
“In most cases, it’s straight down to a bit of confusion as to what Monkey Shoulder is about,” he added.
But for a vast number of people, the company is making waves. This is especially true in the US bartending scene and becoming more so here in the UK, something Dean said he hopes to increase with the appointment of a UK brand ambassador.
“I want to make it my business to get him or her as involved in the Scotch whisky industry as possible,” he said.
This year the company will also launch BBQ bootcamps in London on the 22 and 29 June. For two sessions, guests will learn how to butcher and cook different cuts of meat, and get the chance to try their hand at cocktail concoction.
“I think the BBQ bootcamp is going to be amazing. We tend to throw things out there; if it’s super successful we might scale it up,” explained Dean.
The company will also be showing its face at various music festivals across the UK this summer to reach a broader audience.
And the biggest challenge for Monkey Shoulder over the coming 12 months? According to Dean, it’ll be around keeping up with demand.
“Monkey, in some areas, is flying off the shelves and we can’t produce enough of it to supply demand so we have to make the right decisions to keep everyone happy – it’s a problem facing a lot of the whisky brands. We’re a small team and it seems to be growing at a fast pace so the challenge will be about keeping the small independent spirit and scaling up at the same time,” he concluded.
For more information about Monkey Shoulder’s events, visit: www.monkeyshoulder.com/foronenightonly