Monkey Shoulder is a blended malt created by WM Grant, the famous company behind Glenfiddich and others (as well as Hendricks gin for instance). The name is taken from a repetitive strain injury that distillery workers would develop after years of shoveling barley on the malting floor. This is underscored by a nice looking metal ornament on the shoulder of the bottle, depicting three monkeys.
Monkey Shoulder was launched in 2005 to appeal to a new audience, specifically people who like the sweet, spicy style of American whiskey. It is blend of three Speyside whiskies: Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie single malts (and occasionally other distilleries, or so I’ve heard), always matured in first-fill American oak casks for extra sweetness.
In recent years The Original was added to the label because there’s also a smoky version. Mind that it says Batch 27 but it’s not actually released in distinct batches, it merely refers to the fact that the original recipe was composed of 27 casks.
Monkey Shoulder – The Original – Batch 27 (40%, OB +/- 2021)
Nose: rather sweet and floral, with crisp orange peel and hints of ale. Also yellow apples and vanilla, a bit of breakfast cereals and honey. Not a lot of fruitiness, it’s really kept together by some obvious pencil shavings and fresh wood.
Mouth: same profile of aromatic wood (slightly oriental in a way), now matched to hints of nougat, oranges and lemon peels, a malty core and vanilla sweetness. More oak spice, minty herbs and assorted nuts, apple peelings and plenty of gingery notes.
Finish: quite short, sweet and grainy, with more nuts and oranges.
Not a bad dram, although it doesn’t show the same degree of maltiness and flavour complexity as the blended malts from Compass Box or Douglas Laing for instance. Somehow this is mostly a woody drink. Of course the price is low so it’s a decent entry point for the world of whisky. You can get a full sample set from The Whisky Exchange.