Welcome to the world, Monkey Shoulder, a relatively new scotch brand that you may have seen at your local liquor store as of late (it was introduced in 2005). Master blenders David Stewart and Brian Kinsmen run Monkey Shoulder as a bit of a throwback to the years when blended scotches reigned (as opposed to the many single malts available these days).
Monkey Shoulder is a blend of three Speyside single malts, and while the company won’t say which, the internet consensus is that the malts are Glenfiddich, The Balvenie and Kininvie. Speyside is the northernmost distilling region of Scotland, and its scotches fall into two flavor profiles, according to The Whiskey Exchange: light and grassy “lunchtime whiskies” or sweet and rich whiskies.
The flavor of Monkey Shoulder is more in line with the second profile, with tasting notes of vanilla, cinnamon and sweet cream. While some scotches are famed for their smokiness, Monkey Shoulder is absent of smoke and peat in exchange for its woody spice and sweet, rich finish.
The name, Monkey Shoulder, is an unusual one for a scotch, whose names often tend toward the exotic or unpronounceable (anCnoc, anyone?). A “monkey shoulder” is a temporary condition that maltmen would develop after a long day of turning barley by hand; another whiskey history throwback for the Monkey Shoulder brand.
For a bottle of quality whisky with a pretty great trio of pewter monkeys perched on it, Monkey Shoulder can be found at a very respectable $30-ish at your local liquor shop. You’ll find the bottle contains a solid blend of quality single malts with a familiar Speyside flavor. In that price range, too, you get a good sipping scotch and one that’s also feasable in cocktails like an Old Fashioned or Rob Roy.