If there’s one thing millennials have yet to kill, it’s alcohol.
Let’s face it — no matter how seemingly behind we may be on grasping basic, archaic concepts like budgeting, retirement and plain old dating with a capital ‘D’, the appreciation that comes from slamming back a solid cocktail seems to have been passed down us in good health.
But what tends to shift from generation to generation is what exactly our go-to beverages are — simply put, you're not exactly seeing the majority of 21-year-olds ordering a glass of Scotch at a post-work happy hour with friends.
Spirits like vodka, tequila and rum have built reputations for being ‘party’ spirits, typically invoking an image of big crowds, raging bar scenes and friends laughing, while Scotch (and all those in the Whisky category) seems to exude a more serious, business-oriented undertone, like the stereotypical business man sitting in his office after a stressful day pouring himself a stiff glass of whisky neat.
Monkey Shoulder is aiming to change that.
Though these seemingly ancient stereotypes and misconceptions about Scotch aren’t easily stripped away, Monkey Shoulder is trying to implement it into new and innovative interactions and cocktails to change the way consumers — regardless of generation — view the spirit.
Monkey Shoulder has been on the road trying everything to put the fun, loosened-up-vibes back into Scotch, from a giant 2,400 gallon cocktail shaker to frozen Whisky cocktail slushy machines.
Take a look at the giant cocktail shaker around the country here:
Up 28 percent in volume from 2017 to 2018, it’s safe to say the company’s strategy is working. We chatted Vance Henderson, Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky - U.S. Brand Ambassador to get the scoop on the company's strategy, success and what we can expect next from the industry at large.
AOL: How would you describe the stereotypical scotch drinker? Does that stereotype match the profile for most common consumer of scotch in the industry? Does it differ?
Vance Henderson: Many take their Scotch very seriously, which we at Monkey Shoulder respect and understand. However, we believe that people should play with their whisky and enjoy their interaction with the liquid in new and exciting ways. That’s why we are dedicated to sharing the joy of what a whisky cocktail can be, using Monkey Shoulder’s tailor-made taste for mixing. We have found that the stereotype of this serious Whisky drinker is not true for the most common consumer, so that’s why we encourage people to play with their whisky and make the experience their own.
AOL: Are you finding more millennials are drinking blended scotch or does the consumer demographic still bend older?
VH: Monkey Shoulder’s unique flavor, personality, and approach is reaching a millennial demographic unlike other whiskies while simultaneously introducing the traditional older whisky lover to new ways of enjoying an amazingly blended scotch. I’m very proud that Monkey Shoulder in bringing a new and welcomed energy boost to the category!
AOL: What are some innovative ways Monkey Shoulder has been aiming for reach new customers?
VH: Throughout 2018, I have been on the road bringing Monkey Shoulder to the masses in a variety of ways. We currently have two massive 2,400 gallon cocktail shakers driving across the country pouring Mixed Up Monkey cocktails from its rotating drum and spout. We’ve gotten great responses at each stop, and consumers really love interacting with the whisky in this way. We also have our Distortion Tour currently making rounds across the country, where we take world famous bars from across the globe to cities throughout the U.S. for one-night-only bar pop-ups. In true Monkey Mixer fashion, we’ve shaken things up with a twist by making each bar step out of the comfort zone and do something entirely new, whether tiki, gothic, or totally blue. Finally, to engage further with the bar trade, we have our Ultimate Bartender Championship, where bartenders learn the skills that pay the bills from the industry’s best before battling it out in a competition where there can only be one winner. Through all of this, Monkey Shoulder shows its commitment to its consumers in bringing the mixed up whisky magic directly to them.
AOL: What are some of the most popular whisky-based cocktails you’ve seen being ordered with in the last five years?
VH: Some of the most popular whisky based cocktails are the Old Fashioned, Penicillin, whisky sour and whiskey Collins. These classic cocktails have been making a huge comeback over the last 5 or 6 years.
AOL: What do you think is the core reason responsible for the success in Monkey Shoulder’s growth over the past few years?
VH: At the end of the day, it all boils down to our product. Our blended malt Scotch whisky is unparalleled and its roots in malt whisky history broke new ground in its marriage of Speyside single malts. It’s approachable, intriguing, and just a touch mischievous, and Monkey Shoulder’s mellow vanilla and spicy notes make it smooth and rich both on its own and in cocktails.
AOL: How has the success of Monkey Shoulder differed from success in the restaurant/bar scene vs consumers buying bottles/the product directly? (Where is the most success in sales coming from?)
VH: Monkey Shoulder closed 2017 strongly up +37% in Nielsen vs. a Blended Scotch category that declined -3.4%. 2018 continues the strong trends as Monkey Shoulder continues to grow share YTD, trending +14pts ahead of the category. For Monkey Shoulder, the success is in the bottle and the brand has seen success in both on-premise and off-premise sales. Through Monkey Shoulder’s consistent attention to both consumer and trade through outreach, marketing, and interaction, the brand is able to effectively cover both facets of the spirits buying power.
AOL: How have you seen the spirit industry at large change, transform over the past 5-10 years? Where do you see it going next?
VH: Right now we are seeing big changes in industry trends thanks to the rise of cocktail culture and ever-shifting consumer tastes. The blended Scotch category in particular has evolved with US consumers over the past few years and will continue to do so. Consumers are drawn to Monkey Shoulder in particular through its style – it’s a blended Scotch made up of 100% Speyside malt after all. It’s the perfect whisky for mixing, and consumers really react positively to the adaptability of the liquid in cocktails – which is important now more than ever as cocktail culture continues to grow.