Monkey Shoulder global brand ambassador and self-confessed whisky geek Dean Callan was in town recently to promote the whisky brand, as well as tending the bar at various venues such as L’Aiglon. The Ireland-born but Australia-raised Callan won many awards and accolades – such as China’s Bartender of the Year 2008 and Cosmopolitan Bartender of the Year 2007, among many others – in a bartending journey that included a stint at highly-rated Milk & Honey in SOHO, London where he was spotted by the folks from Monkey Shoulder and appointed as ambassador.
Today Callan travels around the world helping to demystify the “unnecessary snobbery and pomposity around Scotch malt whisky”, and leading Monkey Shoulder’s charge to break down the misconceptions and unfair stereotypes around the tipple he loves. He shares with us about the unique Scotch that’s made by blending three different Speyside single malts into one, and also gives us some ideas on how best to enjoy the fiery spirit before, before heading back behind the bar for more monkey business:
1. Share with us your journey in the spirits industry and how you got to be a brand ambassador. What exactly do you do as a brand ambassador anyway?
I started out as a bartender before becoming a brand ambassador as most do. The move to brand ambassadorship happened as a result of my love for spirits and brands.
I still love bar-tending though, so you will often see me behind a bar pretending I still have skills!
2. So tell us a little bit about Monkey Shoulder – how it’s made, how is it positioned and where does it place in the world of spirits?
Monkey Shoulder is a unique beast, unlike most scotch whisky, Monkey Shoulder is neither a single malt or a blended scotch whisky.
We are a blended malt, meaning that we mix the best from different distilleries but using only single malt whisky in the blend, so you get a smoother richer taste without a hefty price tag.
3. Do you think that its interesting position as a blended whisky coupled with a slightly playful and quirky brand tone – sandwiched in a market dominated by incumbent and familiar blended whisky on one side and then the single malt category on the other – poses a challenge?
I am sure it would pose a challenge if we made it our focus to pitch ourselves against other types or brands of scotch whisky, but we simply don’t see them as our peers or competitors; our goal is to introduce new people to scotch whisky.
We feel the best way to do this is to drop all preconceptions and focus on new occasions, mix-ability and personality. We want to make sure people have fun, enjoy what they are drinking and feel comfortable trying something new, if they are interested in our story only then do we share it.
Often there is no need to compare ourselves with others, if people like Monkey Shoulder then they like it, comparing it to other whiskies won’t change that. We simply focus on introducing Monkey Shoulder to new people and taking care of our existing fans.
4. What’s your personal favourite tipple? How do you enjoy your Monkey Shoulder?
I have a lot of favourites to be honest, at the moment I am loving drinks with pineapple in them! The Monkey Colada (a twist on the Pina Colada with Monkey Shoulder, coconut water, pineapple puree, coconut liqueur, angostura bitters and fresh lime juice), the Peacemaker (a variation on the Prince of Wales using Monkey Shoulder, maraschino liqueur, angostura bitters, champagne, sugar and fresh pineapple) or the King of Kings (Monkey Shoulder, fresh pineapple, honey and clove syrup and fresh lemon juice inspired by the king of cocktails Dale De Groff and the king of fruit, the pineapple).
5. If you weren’t doing what you are currently doing, what would you be doing?
I would go right back to working in a bar.
I hope to own a bar one day, no matter what the chance of success it’s my passion and I don’t want any regrets when I am an old man. Not taking the chance with a bar would be a big regret. So if you know of anyone keen to invest let me know!
6. Share with us an easy recipe incorporating Monkey Shoulder we can easily put together at home.
Try one of the oldest and the best, the Mamie Taylor.
Take a tall glass and fill it with ice, cut a fresh lime in half and squeeze one half into the glass then sit the half lime shell atop the ice as a garnish. Now pour 1oz (30ml) of Monkey Shoulder over the lime into the glass, top with dry ginger ale and enjoy. Great for all weather!