Review: Monkey Shoulder

Photo via scotchwhisky.com

It’s not often you find a distillery named after an injury, but apparently Monkey Shoulder breaks the mold in a couple ways.  For reference, according to their website, the name “monkey shoulder” comes from an old story from the history of making scotch:  “malted barley is turned by hand by malt men using large heavy malt shovels. Years ago, some malt men would develop a strain injury which had a tendency to cause their arm to hang down a bit like a monkey’s, so they nicknamed it ‘monkey shoulder’. Thankfully, the condition no longer exists but we’re still proud to honour our whisky heritage.”  Well I learned at least one thing today.  Anyways, this blended scotch is made from mixing malt’s from three different Speyside distilleries (Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie), and then aged in oak barrels for at least 3 years.  As with many blended scotches the rest of the process is not really known. We’re not sure what malt’s are blended, the ratios, or how long any part of the blend is aged. 

“…malted barley is turned by hand by malt men using large heavy malt shovels. Years ago, some malt men would develop a strain injury which had a tendency to cause their arm to hang down a bit like a monkey’s, so they nicknamed it ‘monkey shoulder’. Thankfully, the condition no longer exists but we’re still proud to honour our whisky heritage.”

monkeyshoulder.com

Preparation: As with all scotches, the smell and first sip are “neat”; meaning no ice, water or any other mixer, just the whisky on its own. After that I added a little bit of water for subsequent sips, and finally to get the entire range of flavors, I added ice in the last few sips.

Smell: A lot of fruit and sweetness on the first sniff.  Also some background notes of vanilla as well.  A little bit of an alcohol smell, but not very strong and goes away quickly once your nose gets used to it.

Palate: Sweet is definitely the main flavor in this blend.  There’s some secondary notes of honey and vanilla as well, and it leaves a nice warm mouthfeel.  A little burn on the tongue, but like the smell it goes away quickly as your palate gets used to it.

Finish: Medium finish, with very little burn but an aftertaste of spice, oak and peppermint.  The peppermint was a bit of a surprise but it has that mix of sweet and spicy that makes a lot of sense based on the previous flavors.

With Ice: While the ice takes away the burn almost completely, it also severely dilutes the sweetness and completely takes away the backing notes of honey and vanilla.  I really cannot recommend putting any ice with this, and it is much more enjoyable neat.

Overall: Blended scotch can get a bad rap as a “cheap alternative” to well made single malts.  There’s plenty of blended whiskies that fall under this category and are mainly used as mixers in cocktails.  And while it’s true that the process to make blends makes the flavors easier to control and alter, Monkey Shoulder is not some cheap alternative. It is a very smooth, delicious and sweet blend that plays well above its price point.  For the same price as a lot of other “mixer” blends, you get a lot of great flavor and not a lot of harsh burn or “alcohol” taste.  I will keep a bottle of this all the time as it’s the perfect introductory whisky for those looking to give scotch a try. 

Distiller: Monkey Shoulder

Cask: Blended (Multiple)

Price: $30-$40

ABV: 40%

Color: Deep Gold

Region: Speyside

Age: 3+ years

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