Whisky blends form around 90% of sales globally and blends in general would cause one to think of a mix of grain and malt whiskies. A sliver perhaps… but still a genre in itself, there are these that they call vatted malts, more commonly known as malt blends – blended whisky with zero grain presence but all malt goodness – The Monkey Shoulder being one.
Picking a name for this spirit is a story in itself, one that wasn’t all that easy to coin, so much so that the folks at ‘William Grant and Sons‘ searched old archives, spoke to distillers and workers alike, prior to launching it in 2005. It was during one of these conversations that they heard of the ‘Monkey Shoulder‘ – a temporary medical condition, a locked shoulder with arms hanging like that of a monkey’s, which was common amongst malt-men who would tirelessly spend hours turning the barley day after day during the malting process. The condition in itself is extinct with newer practices now in place, but the name stuck as a tribute to the tireless work these malt men would perform.
The Monkey Shoulder was originally made from a blend of three speyside malts all owned by ‘William Grant & Sons‘ – Kininvie, Glenfiddich and Balvenie (or KGB as I like to call it). These whiskies were matured exclusively in first fill ex-bourbon barrels and a select 27 casks were then chosen to be married in tuns for an additional three to six months. The Monkey Shoulder continues to lean on the KGB malts keeping strictly to the ‘tri-malt combo‘ (* explains the three furry primates within the logo*) in varying proportions ensuring the final blend maintains the expected consistency from batch to batch. In terms of an age, there isn’t any concrete documentation mentioning so, however some forums do indicate it to be between 6 and 12 years.
ABV : 40%
Nose: Layers of vanilla, caramel and sweet honey accompanied by some citrus and charred oak wood. Bits of coconut shards, ginger shavings and dried dates are gradually replaced by a sense of warmth from the spice of cinnamon and black pepper.
Taste: Caramel, rich butter and milk chocolate mixed with oak and orange peel shavings. This sweetness is soon met with light spice, that of black pepper and hints of star anise.
Finish: Medium-long. Mildly sweet with a lingering warmth
The Monkey Shoulder has a light to medium body leaving an oily feel on the tongue; it is sweet, with layers of caramel and a nice hit of butter. An extremely enjoyable whisky typical of most speyside malts – hints of smoke and fruity sweetness. And though being a blend of malts, the spirit is still crisp, light and vibrant, most likely owing to its relatively young and amateurish age. Which would also mean the amber hue is more E150 caramel coloring than all natural.
Considering the 35-40 something dollar price tag, this is good value for money whisky. It shares the same space as the Black Label, but is a lot less smokey and bold. Its sweeter DNA makes it great neat, ‘on the rocks’ or even as a cocktail. In fact the folks at Monkey Shoulder themselves have been promoting the use of its whisky more so as a cocktail, hosting a bunch of contests (Ultimate Bartender Contest) at various locations within India, and some abroad.
End of story – this whisky does justice considering its price range, with adequate depth and complexity – no doubt an everyday whisky!