Cheeky, unpretentious, and perhaps a little hipster – those are the words that we would use to best describe Monkey Shoulder.
For the uninitiated, Monkey Shoulder is a blend of 3 different Speyside single malts coming together to create a very unique profile that is free-spirited and fun-loving with an easygoing smooth, rich, and mellow vanilla deliciousness. Fast fans of the game-changing blended malt whisky since its official launch in Malaysia in August last year, we were even schooled by Monkey Shoulder’s then Regional Brand Ambassador Zachary Connor de Git over a round of speed Jenga and some drinks.
More recently, we were invited to a Monkey Shoulder Guest Shift night at Damansara Kim’s discreet watering hole, The Locker & Loft, where we introduced to the blended malt whisky’s new Regional Brand Ambassador. Speaking to us exclusively, Jay Gray, talks about taking on this new role as the face of Monkey Shoulder, amongst other things :)
Jack Jay of all trades (landscaping, dishwashing, bartending, skateboarding) and a master of one (bartending), he was inspired to get behind the bar after witnessing firsthand that bartenders were always at the centre of attention, having the best time, and the fact that everyone was always happy to see them.
Having experienced bartending in Barcelona, first working part-time before eventually doing full time 7 days a week at 2 different bars while studying law in university, he knew he wanted to pursue bartending over law.
In speaking about his passion for bartending and why he decided to pursue it full time, Jay explained, “Bartending it’s kinda like working on a puzzle. Every single day you’re trying to put together a different puzzle because when a customer comes in and they don’t know what they want or don’t know how to articulate drinks they like, it’s very entertaining and exciting all the time to make them cocktails. And it doesn’t stop, it doesn’t get boring.”
Now as the new face of Monkey Shoulder, Jay is excited about introducing the blended malt whisky to people and easing people into the idea of drinking it. “When you work at a bar, sometimes you have to make snap decisions. There are 2 ways about it when you’re at a bar. For example, if someone says to me, ‘I hate gin’, I’d make them a gin cocktail and then they’d be like, ‘This is fantastic!’ but I don’t tell them that it’s actually gin there and then, I’d probably tell them later. If people are adamant that they don’t like something, I’d try to educate them..maybe in a sneaky underhand way. It’s about peeling away connotations about scotch whisky which is perceived as an uncle or a pub drink. I don’t know much about branding but the thing about the Monkey Shoulder bottle is that it’s quite appealing to the eye and there’s no age statement on the bottle. Age statements are a way of selling to an uneducated market because people think that older and more expensive is better. It can be, sometimes, but it isn’t necessarily so. When I sell Monkey Shoulder at a bar, it’s about quick education. If it’s for someone who’s completely brand new to the idea of drinking scotch whisky then I’d probably have to work out if it’s a cocktail to use to introduce it with or a Monkey Shoulder and ginger.”
“My favourite cocktail to ease anyone into the category is The Penicillin, specifically in Southeast Asia because it has a little bit of spice to it. The Penicillin has freshly juiced ginger syrup so it has got that spiciness. It’s basically a whisky sour with ginger syrup, honey, and a touch of smoky whisky on top, and it just works really well. It’s a modern classic in terms of..it was only created 4 or 5 years ago but the world knows about it because they just love it. So that’s the easiest way for me to get people into it because I know that it’s going to be a hit straightaway,” he added.
Of course, this is coming from the same guy who spent hours after our chat whipping up cocktail after cocktail in a frenzy from behind The Locker & Loft bar to a cozy crowd of enthusiastic Malaysian drinkers. Alternating between his 3 signature cocktails – Frisco Fizz, Zhivago, Old Fashioned Nutcase – without skipping a beat, Jay most definitely kept the buzz going, culminating in an informal but fun night out with Monkey Shoulder.
Finally, Jay shared his thoughts on what he thinks makes a good bartender: “Heavy focus on what the aim of the game is, which is hospitality. It doesn’t matter if your dog just passed away, your girlfriend just broke up with you, or whatever that has happened. When you come in to work, you’re there to serve, present, and entertain. A great bartender doesn’t necessarily have to know every classic cocktail under the sun, that kind of stuff you can learn in your own time. It’s about being hospitable, providing really great service, adding little touches, and having the ability to make people feel special from the moment they walk through the door.”
Monkey Shoulder is bottled at 40% ABV and priced on average of RM280 per bottle.
It is available at major hypermarkets and selected cocktail specialty bars such as Omakase + Appreciate, Souled Out, W.I.P, HYDE at 53M, Healy Mac’s Irish Bar & Restaurant, Splash.
For more information, visit Monkey Shoulder’s official website.