This is one bottle that stands out on the shelf, that’s for sure. Emblazoned with an iconic trio of metal monkeys and some charming nautical fonts, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a bottle of rum – and for the sudden urge to plunder some small, helpless Caribbean coastal village.
Monkey Shoulder is a blend of three single malts – “three of Speyside’s finest”, according to the label. Of course there’s no official information on exactly which whiskies were thrown together (presumably so they can keep their options open), but a lot of websites confidently claim that it’s a mix of Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie… Which would make sense considering they’re neighbours in Dufftown and all owned by William Grant & Sons. So is Monkey Shoulder a way for WG&S to flog inferior whiskies that couldn’t make the cut at their single malt distilleries? Probably, but you’d be hard pressed to tell:
I was hoping to smell some hair-curdling rum, the salty twang of the ocean air, perhaps rough timber decking. At very least a bloody cutlass or two. Alas, I was disappointed. But then, pleasantly surprised: It clearly smells like Speyside. Remarkably like the Glenfiddich 12, in fact, but with less of a fruity punch. Vanilla, grass and a herbal quality, with a tinge of marzipan.
Very gentle smoke, herbal and a strong note of caramel. Marzipan, raisins. Medicinal, but the kind you pretended to be sick for. Younger than 12 years? Perhaps – but goes down well. The finish is pleasantly long, with a faintly bitter (but enjoyable) ride out.
Adding water makes the nose somewhat sweeter – a pleasant marshmallow sugariness – and (ugh) a little more floral. Likewise for the taste. I’d stick to it neat, or a block of ice if I was in the mood to finish it quickly. Otherwise – cocktails (see below).
A surprisingly talented, affordable concoction – and pretty much the only worthwhile blended malt you’ll get in this price range. You get most of the character of some classic Speyside single-malts at a fraction of the cost. Best of all you can use this stuff to make some pretty indulgent, malty cocktails – throw in some soda and a wedge of something sour and you’ve got the makings of an epic highball.