They say whisky is always enjoyed neat or on the rocks. Perhaps you are allowed to add some water to take the edge off— just a wee bit. But what about squeezing in some lemon juice with dollops of jam, 5ml of sugar syrup with a dash of orange bitters, topped off with soda water? A refined old gentleman might quail at the idea of a whisky cocktail but Monkey Shoulder, a blended scotch whisky from the house of William Grant & Sons, wants you to have some fun.
A scotch whisky amenable to funky, fruity cocktails, "a bartender's favourite", it wants to make whisky less smoky, salty and scorchy, or less of an acquired taste. Monkey Shoulder, as it professes, is a whisky "that loves company and shows its versatility in cocktails". And it is trying to gain a foothold in Indian bars.
A mix of three different Speyside single malts, Monkey Shoulder was first created in 2005 and derives its name from a condition malt men toiling in Scottish distilleries suffered from. They used to manually flip and churn barley for hours and hours, causing their hands to hang down like that of a monkey—a sort of tennis elbow for whiskey-makers of yore.
Within a decade since its inception, Monkey Shoulder has gained worldwide popularity. It has been acing bestselling scotch whisky charts for the last four years and was adjudged the Top Trending Scotch Whisky Brand of 2018 by Drinks International, an industry-based publication which surveys top 100 bars around the world. Early this year, the brand unveiled a giant mobile cocktail shaker, resembling a cement truck, with a capacity of 2,400 gallons. Titled The Monkey Mixer, the alcohol machine toured multiple US cities and served up Mixed Up Monkey cocktail from its chute.
Monkey Shoulder has been sponsoring bartender challenges in India for the last two years now. Vedant Mehra, 25, from Bengaluru won this year's India grand finale of the Ultimate Bartender Championship by Monkey Shoulder held at The Electric Room, Lodhi Hotel on June 28. The competition brought together bartenders from around the country who had won the regional rounds of the championship. Mehra will now compete in Athens which will select the world's best bartender. Although Monkey Shoulder wants to bring about a "cocktail revolution" in the country, convincing hard-nosed whisky connoisseurs to mix and whisk too much might be a tall order.
Monkey Shoulder global brand ambassador Joe Petch, describes the demographic slice which digs the new whisky blend: "It is not necessarily young people but people that are young at heart. They don't take things as seriously as everyone expects them to. Monkey Shoulder is like the rebellious teenager in the crowd. It is way more easy-going and approachable than traditional single malts."