Review: Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Ex-Bourbon Casks
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

Traditionally, and still performed in some distilleries, the barley germinates on a floor into malt. While it does so, it must be continually “turned” or shovelled over so that it doesn’t grow into a solid carpet of barley plants. “Monkey Shoulder” refers to a condition that some men picked up after long shifts turning the barley by hand, where the work caused one of their arms to hang down a bit like a monkey. It is a blend of three speyside single malts, Kininvie (rarely seen as a single malt), Balvenie, and Glenfiddich – all owned by William Grant and Sons. All of the whiskies going into this blend is matured in ex-bourbon casks, and each batch is made from 27 casks.

Review (2015)

  • Batch: 27

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Baked apples with a brilliant buttery toffee base. Quite fruity, too, with notes of green pear and some fresh orange- overall it’s well integrated into the rest with good balance. It has some of that rich corn character found in some bourbons. There is really nice subtlety here, especially if it is sought out – bits of vanilla, light baking spices (cinnamon particularly), barley earthiness, and light brown sugar.

Taste: More malt driven than I expected from the nose, and quite malt-centric. The malt is soft at first before drifting to some more earthy components and some pear. It develops fairly slowly, which works well. The toffee and the fruit are still present, but it is the grain which dominates here. At times, it tastes young, which detracts.

Finish: A light peppery spicy feel on the finish, with the lightest touch of bitterness which isn’t the most pleasant. The barley notes remain central on the finish and the earthiness from the grain is very present, with some apple and pear too. A bit of a mishmash – lots of flavour, but it’s not particularly well put together.

I was hoping that some of the subtlety on the nose would be more present on the taste, but the malt blend seems to go downhill after the nose. I do quite like the embracing of the barley, and how it is presented on the palate.

Value: Average, at $46.