Meme Callan is the the Global Bland Ambassador for Monkey Shoulder. He gave a number of interviews the other day (which you should probably read first), but he found time to speak to Whiskysponge as well. He ejected a number of electrical impulses from within his cranium in the form of words and opinions…
“Being fun is difficult in Scotch whisky because absolutely no one enjoys drinking it. That’s the whole reason Monkey Shoulder exists. It was created not to have the quality of a single malt or the provenance of a blend. We wanted to sit somewhere in the middle – like lukewarm water. We wanted to create a phrase that would induce self-harm, like ‘the traditional whisky moment’.
People still think Monkey Shoulder is shit, but that’s just because they’ve tasted it. Our attitude is that of a lifestyle brand, but that’s only because we daren’t actually confront the actual quality of the liquid. If we are ever asked how it’s made, we will tell them, but we try not to get bogged down in actually informing people about things when there’s marketing to be peddled.
Grain whisky is perceived as inferior because it is a mass produced, neutral spirit, flavoured by oak and lacking almost any of the long-chain, fatty, molecular congeners that make up the comparably significant flavours of single malt whisky. Personally I’ve brainwashed myself to ignore this science. The sooner everyone gets over this non-chill filtered, caramel free, pro-age statement business the better. Eventually they will go full-circle, drop all the age statements – which is already happening – and go back to having a bit of fun with it, because they’ll run out of geeky crap to sell to people. Or – as some people call it – ‘product information’ whatever that is!? Lol!
Our job is to ponce about like underage Moomin children in a crystal meth lab. ‘Being named the trendiest Scotch whisky [by Drinks International] was amazing. Naive Studentgrant [UK brand ambassador] wants to make a shirt that says “Cunty Lolz” and cruise around and promote it, but we’ve won loads of awards over the years and never shut the fuck up about it so he’ll probably just make a cheese and Pringle toasty for his pet Dachshund Marmalade instead. I love this award the most because it’s the shape of what I imagine candy floss would be if it was made inside my pants by a sexy love wizard from Galveston. Word of mouth tends to work better than advertising for us because none of us can read or write real words.
‘The number of people who have fallen in love with Monkey Shoulder is exactly the same number that have been employed to sell it over the years. They’ve been fans for a long time and because the brand hasn’t changed massively and isn’t seen on billboards everywhere, they’ve been able to project themselves onto its inherent blandness.
I’m the type of person that will open whisky. I managed to get a couple of bottles of Tun 1401 Batch 1; the first one I opened and the second I opened last year. It was going for over £2,000 at that stage even though it actually wasn’t and I just pulled that number out of my face-arse and I was drunk and like “hey look at this anecdote that I’ll be able to show off about in some sort of interview in the future”. It’s gone now, because that’s what happens when you drink liquid. It’s for drinking at the end of the day. You don’t want to get hit by a bus and be on your deathbed and be like: “I wish I’d opened that Tun 1401 and used it to garner more attention for myself”.
The nature of my job means I’m always on the go, people tend to run me out of town a lot. We’ve just worked out my calendar up until the middle of November, and even then I’m missing loads of markets I can’t personally go to because I might be shot in the thorax with a blunderbuss.
If I could zap from one market to the next and not worry about the flights, I’d constantly be there even if what I just said makes absolutely no sense. Seriously, all that’s holding me back is the immense scientific hurdle of teleportation. If I could take [my partner] Fauxlectra with me, I’d be on the road the whole time. Even if that road was some kind of sub-atomic particle transference, which would be like the shiz!
Wanking is a bit of a release for me, but I’ve now brought work into the wanking environment. I started wanking with top bartenders around the world and, as we have headsets, we chat while wanking. That’s why I started a Boozy Wankers group on Facebook to bring as many industry wankers together as possible. The advantage is they tend to wank a couple of hours before they go to work and a couple of hours after they finish work. The guys from Employees Only [in New York] seem to be wanking all the time.
I’ve wanted to be a bartender since I was 14. Either that, an ellipsis or other occupier of space. In old Western movies, which I was into when I was a kid, nobody matters apart from the good guys, the bad guys and the saloon keeper and the inherent racism. The bank manager might be in it sometimes and occasionally Clint Eastwood totally rapes a woman but it’s all ok and she enjoyed it because it was sooo the 1970s. The saloon keeper is the kind of guy that pulls a shotgun out from behind the bar and says “not in my bar”. He’s central to culture and society within a town because these were massively simplified cinematic genre artifacts that acquiesced to the desires of American conservatism to preserve an image of it’s own air-brushed history. One which might ideologically re-indoctrinate the minds of a post-war American youth hungry for cheap cinematic thrills and lush, Technicolor escapism.
Whatever bartenders get into, the rest of society does five years later – like my mate Lycra who got stuck in a Portaloo in 2010. Bartenders got into tattoos and moustaches around 2003, there was literally no human in the history of the universe with a tattoo or a moustache before 2003. Even croupier clips – when they were popular they were impossible to find. Now Tie Rack has them. Same with socks, when bartenders wore them they were like Unicorn jizz. Now? I just tripped over a fucking sock on my way here – it was mine but it’s still a serious matter!
When I started as a bartender, I did a work-based training and assessment course, two different bartending courses and a hospitality management course. I spent thousands of dollars on tupperware, which was stupid because I didn’t know they also sold it in the UK. But when I went for my first bar job they said they didn’t employ people without their own genuine 19th century crockery – tupperware just didn’t cut it. So I said I’d work for free until I’m better than the worst crockery in the bar. They took me on; it was two weeks before I realised I was completely mistaken about the hyper-glamourisation of bar work.
I was an extremely arrogant little shit when I was a kid – thank Vishnu I’ve seen the error of my ways. I had the tenacity when I was 15 to make myself my own parent/guardian so I could write my own excuse notes, like: “Meme cannot wear his school uniform today because he hasn’t washed it”.
‘I built a bar in my back garden, but the dream is to own an actual bar that charges people for drinks – that way it won’t even need any staff! The number one thing that’s missing from the industry is a bar that brings back the old hospitality that innkeepers had. There was accommodation upstairs, a trough outside for your horse, there was ale and food – and that was it. There is literally nothing the whisky industry needs more than a bar like that one I just made up! I’d like to have a trough outside my bar too – celebrities could nourish themselves in its waters. And saloon doors. But it’s more the mentality and hospitality of an all-encompassing place I’m after – like Scientology in a brand-sensitive whisky inn format. But really it’s other people’s fault for not having their own horses in London anymore. It’s like no one actually gives a shit these days!”
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