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Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Whisky

Average score from 17 reviews and 50 ratings 78

Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Whisky

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@OdysseusUnbound
Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Whisky

This is an abbreviated version of an upcoming blog post

Blended malt scotch whisky is an interesting case study. Blended malt, a mix of different single malt scotches, supposedly allows for greater flexibility and a more complex flavour profile. However, excepting a select few, blended malts don’t seem to be all that popular. Monkey Shoulder seems to be one of those exceptions. It enjoys an almost cult-like following in at least one online Whisk(e)y community.

For those who don’t know, the name of this whisky is a nod to the men who used to turn the malted barley by hand. Many developed a repetitive strain injury in one shoulder, and the condition was dubbed "Monkey Shoulder". This blended malt, the product of William Grant & Sons is a mix of three single malts; Kininvie, Glenfiddich, and Balvenie. The folks at William Grant have also said that other single malts from undisclosed distilleries may find their way into the mix from time to time, but the KGB whiskies, as they're known, are consistent.

I have not found the exact proportion of each component whisky in the final mix, and I've never tried Kininvie as a stand-alone single malt, so I won't attempt to do any detective work here. Monkey Shoulder bears no age statement, so we can only assume it's at least 3 years old, which is the minimum required aging period for whisky in Scotland.

Tasting Notes

  • Nose (undiluted): honey, vanilla, fuzzy peach candies, floral notes
  • Palate (undiluted): hot arrival for a whisky bottled at only 43% ABV, somewhat creamy mouthfeel, barley nuttiness, a bit of vanilla and orange peels
  • Finish: fairly short, with more vanilla and some coconut notes

Adding water tones down the heat, but also drowns out the fruitiness, leaving only honey and barley flavours. There's a bit of oak on the finish with water, but not much else. So adding water (or ice) to this whisky is a bit of a trade-off. To be fair, the folks at William Grant market Monkey Shoulder as a mixing/cocktail whisky and it may work better as a mixer than as a sipping whisky.

Monkey Shoulder is a befuddling case study. It’s quality is acceptable, if somewhat mediocre, but it is not a great neat sipper. To be fair, the company plasters the Monkey Shoulder website with cocktail recipes. The befuddling quirk I refer to may be specific to Ontario: the pricing quirk. Monkey Shoulder sells for about $65 CAD, making it more expensive than many terrific sipping whiskies. As such, I wouldn't really recommend it unless you can buy it for less money in a different jurisdiction. For $65 or less, I would rather buy J.P. Wiser's Dissertation, Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, Wild Turkey Rare Breed, or Lot no.40 Rye. Your experience may differ, and if you live in a market where Monkey Shoulder is more reasonably priced, it's a good whisky for "background" enjoyment. Try before you buy.

@MadSingleMalt Thanks for the kind words. I tend to want to be more philosophical and poetic, but I think the jocular, irreverent tone works a bit better in the online world.

@MadSingleMalt I’ll have to check again, but I don’t think I found this whisky particularly heavy, but it was sort of one dimensional. Not bad, but maybe kind of like The Ramones: kind of cool at first, but not something I want a lot of...

@casualtorture

I bought a bottle of this on recommendation. It is a blended malt whisky from 3 different Speyside distilleries. Those 3 distilleries do change apparently depending on what is available. Monkey Shoulder itself is a medical issue developed by malt men who turned the malted barely by hand.

It is decanted and is my decoy to distract certain people away from my other whisky.

Nose: Orange peel, vanilla, raspberry, apricot jam. Not at all displeasing but it's a bit bitey even at the lowest possible abv.

Palate: Apricot jam. Orange peel. Vanilla. Apricot is the dominant flavor here. Very sweet, almost artificially so.

Finish: Citrus fruit, orange peel, vanilla, apricot. Same as the nose and palate.

Overall: It's fine. Sweet apricot jam and orange juice. The nose, palate, and finish are all the same and there isn't much complexity.

@casualtorture I guess we can put you in the No column. I've never tried it, but it's now well out of the top 100 on my wish list. Sounds "barely" drinkable.

I had it once and didn't like it at all.

Granted, it was a hot summer day and I wasn't really in the mood for whisky, but it was offered (and who can say no?). But that one glass I had was just heavy and lifeless.

@Georgy

This is a nice blended scotch to get you in the mood for a nice whisky tasting session. It isn't demanding, yet it is perfectly pleasant.

NOSE: fruity with fresh sweet red apples being the dominant note. Fresh, creamy with some Acacia honey. However, don't let this one sit too long, for these aromas do disappear within 30+ minutes and you're left with a vague sweet-ish nose.

TASTE: soft, lots of vanilla on the palate. Hints of milk chocolate, all-spice and some nuts.

FINISH: short and sweet. Creme brulee and biscuits. Tropical fruits.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: As I've already said, it's a very good palatable and affordable blend which is very nice for those just starting out or for a good "starter" dram.

Maybe I oughtta try this one again sometime. I had it just once on a hot summer day, and I found it way too heavy for the occasion. By all reports it's a decent cheapo.

Note that there haven't been a sequence of numbered batches, of which this one is #27. That's just a bit of branding, like "Old 7" or whatever they put on Jack Daniels.

And you probably know this, but this "blend" is a "blended malt" with no grain whisky. But don't let anyone tell you the blend consists of 100% Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie. That's a myth that's been busted.

@OIJas Thank you for the insight!

@Frost

Vatting of three young Speysiders: Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. This is a blended malt that has been marketted at cocktail bars to young hipsters with shallow pockets. This works well as a neat sipper, but club goers drink more a cocktail right?

Nose: Vanilla, oak, banana, brown sugar, nuts, pear

Taste: Crème brulee, pears, grassy, oak, tannin

Finish: Dry, vanilla, crème brulee, white pepper, bitter oak, slight peat - very slight

The nose is the most pleasant aspect of this dram. I wont go as far to say the rest is a disappointment by comparison, but it nearly is, I blame this on the watery nature of the dram. This is good value and nicer than many a common blend.

Where is the Kininvie? I don't know exactly, it's swimming with youthful Balvenie and Glenfiddich.

BTW this whisky has "no legs" and it annoys me to see droplets all around my Glencairn. Talk about wasted youth.

Neat thing about Monkey Shoulder, I absolutely drink it as a neat sipper, however if you mix one part Tanqueray to two parts Monkey Shoulder and add ice, won't hurt it, you'd swear you were drinking an olive martini, plain and simple. No shaking, straining, or fancy dress required. My fav gin Blue Sapphire does not give the olive effect. Tanqueray.

@Ol_Jas thank you for the link and information. Really interesting about the casks and flexibility with the 3 x Speysiders

@PMessinger

Fast fruit and malt loaded arrival develops a balanced fruit and grain middle followed by short fast herbal / vegetable finish.

@vrudy6

I've heard of this through the grape vine, and through great product placement on the last episodes of the final season of True Blood. It's a blended malt of three Speyside malts: Balvenie, Glenfiddich (yuck!), and Kininvie. Its got a great price: $29.99. Ready for the ride!

Nose: Sweet, caramel, nice oak, slight vegetal and a trace of molasses.

Palate: Big Caramel, honey. Then a crescendo of alcohol, but then it is suddenly stopped by caramel coated apples, like the ones from your local neighborhood carnival. Good coating of the mouth and a trace of the Balvenie bitterness, but it gets checked out by the strengths of the other malts.

Finish: Good length. Stays oily. Very smooth. Probably the smoothest malt in the $30 range. Stays sweet with a freshness of confectioners sugar. I don't know,but I get a bit of smoke.

What a buy--It's simple. Mostly based on our comfort "palate zone": Sweet, smooth, caramels, honey, yaddie, yaddie, yadda.

I've been contemplating on this buy for a while. I was a bit skeptical, but at this price range, I couldn't resist. I'm glad I didn't.

My apologies. The first time I wrote the review I couldn't find the distillery and brand. The next day I typed the brand on the distillery window and that's when I found the thumbnail pic. Now its easier to find in the review list.

Good enough to review twice?

@vrudy6

I've heard of this through the grape vine, and through great product placement on the last episodes of the final season of True Blood. It's a blended malt of three Speyside malts: Balvenie, Glenfiddich (yuck!), and Kininvie. Its got a great price: $29.99. Ready for the ride!

Nose: Sweet, caramel, nice oak, slight vegetal and a trace of molasses.

Palate: Big Caramel, honey. Then a crescendo of alcohol, but then it is suddenly stopped by caramel coated apples, like the ones from your local neighborhood carnival. Good coating of the mouth and a trace of the Balvenie bitterness, but it gets checked out by the strengths of the other malts.

Finish: Good length. Stays oily. Very smooth. Probably the smoothest malt in the $30 range. Stays sweet with a freshness of confectioners sugar. I don't know,but I get a bit of smoke.

What a buy--It's simple. Mostly based on our comfort "palate zone": Sweet, smooth, caramels, honey, yaddie, yaddie, yadda.

I've been contemplating on this buy for a while. I was a bit skeptical, but at this price range, I couldn't resist. I'm glad I didn't.

@Victor

Monkey Shoulder is pure malt blended from Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Kininvie malt whiskies. "Batch 27" on the label = blended malt from a total of 27 casks. The reviewed sample is compliments of @jeffc

Nose: strong intensity, lots of raisiny dry wine flavours, lots of vanilla, some caramel, baked pear, weakly-flavoured apple cobbler; great balance of sweet and dry. I like the Monkey Shoulder nose quite a lot

Taste: I wish this tasted like it smells. Both grain (yes, barley is a grain) and wood are eclipsed by the wine flavours. The palate is drier, much more wine-tannic and astringent than is the nose. The wine flavours are not quite as attractive in the mouth as they are in the nose. This starts dry and tannic, develops sweetness mid-palate, then turns sour moving toward the finish

Finish: tannic bitter and sour marc. Way too sour for me. I am not a fan

Balance: some people really like Monkey Shoulder. The nose is quite good. Otherwise, I'd be happy not to drink much of this. This could be another case of 'blending by the nose without tasting the whisky'

@Alby, welcome to Connosr. Between Johnnie Walker Black Label and Monkey Shoulder, I would buy and drink Johnnie Walker Black Label every time.

It sounds that you like your blends more strongly flavoured and peaty/smokey. Give Johnnie Walker Double Black a try if you get the chance. You might also like Islay Mist 8 yo. Others going that direction are Clan MacGregor and The Black Grouse.

A blended Scotch with a TOTALLY different flavour profile, but which I and many others love is The Bailie Nicol Jarvie. It is a citrus bomb at 40% abv. IT is very lively and refreshing. That is one you have in Australia which is not sold here in the US.

Was talking to a co-worker of mine about some blends; reminded myself of my bottle of Monkey Shoulder in my sock drawer (a topic from another thread)...

Anywho - just had to crack it open...Lovely stuff, and I must add another single malt to the list in which the Monkey Shoulder blend is superior to (mind you - just my humble opinion)...And that's the Arran 10 yr.

@Volks

This is a release from William Grant and sons, featuring Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie (a silent still which is yet to release any distillery bottlings i believe). Super cheap and pretty tasty.

  • Nose: creamy vanilla, crisp apple, candied banana, pleasant grainy-ness, touch of white pepper and brulee. With water less fruity, more grain, a touch of malt biscuits as well.

  • Pallet: creamy vanilla again with the banana, maybe some strawberry? Never had that before. Fair amount of raw spirit, white pepper. With water honey, much less vanilla, white pepper still there and less rawness, very pleasant.

  • Finish: fairly hot at the end of the pallet, but it smooths out, to light grain and gentle dryness. With water little bit of spirit and grain flavour. Pretty thin

  • Mark neat – 7.5, with water 7.2

Nothing amazing about this whisky, the strawberry note on the pallet is very interesting, overall its not brilliant, but its pleasing, warming and more than capable of removing a scowl from my face, if i happened to have one.

@tjb

I had heard friends say good things about this blend. It is a blended malt made from 3 different single malts from The Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie.

The nose is inviting with vanilla, honey, sawdust, sultanas, pears and malty goodness.

It's smooth out of the glass and tingles the very tip of the tongue with mild spice. You get a big honey hit upfront, oak, spices, orange zest. The are dark fruits and maybe a little citrus. The malt lingers.

The finish is spicy, nutty, very slight hint of bitter oak and on the short side of medium.

This is an interesting blend, better than most that I have tried.

vrudy6 - pick up a bottle - you won't be disappointed.

I must say - if I were blindfolded, and handed a hearty dram of this I'd swear it was a Speyside single malt; IMHO it's better than a fair number of single malts that I've had in the past, but then again - this blend has the flavor profile that I enjoy the most.

What intrigues me is the name 'Monkey Shoulder'...Why not just call it Kininvie Blended Malt?

BTW - I found out via the web as to why it's named 'Monkey Shoulder'.

Apparently it's named after a 'repeated injury' that many workers would have at the end of a long shift at the distillery when they were turning malt on the floor.

The repeated motion of shoveling would cause some soreness/stiffness, and the workers would find themselves hunched over thus resembling the profile of a monkey.

Cheeky if you ask me.

@mosis522

I have heard some people talk about a certain whisky & although it may not the the best whisky they have had, it has a memory or a sentimental feeling when they drink it. For me this is one of these whiskies! I usually find it hard to find people who enjoy whisky with me. I am quite young (24 years old) and most of my friends either don't like whisky or they only drink it with coke. Luckily I found a few likeminded fellows to join me for 'scotch club' as we like to call it. Basically we put in some money and get a couple of bottles, some cigars and play some poker. This is one of the bottles we first tried, therefore when I nose and taste this one i get memories of enjoying a pretty nice whisky on what was a great night enjoying whisky in good company. Here in Australia this is an affordable blend I would definitely purchase again.

Nose: Oak, hint of port/sherry, floral, vanilla, citrus Taste: Slight port sweetness, wood, oak, honey, lemon peel Finish: Medium length, slight bitterness, drying towards the end

@SquidgyAsh

Our whisky club just met up this last weekend for our monthly whisky tasting. Normally it is 4 or 5 of us, however due to work and other unforeseen circumstances coming up it was going to be just 3 of us, including a new guy.

I got to the whisky bar, Helvetica, just before it was opening time and it was dead quiet, too quiet.

Crap, that's right it's a public holiday this upcoming Monday and lots of businesses are closing early. Have I screwed up?! Have I scheduled a club meeting on a day where nothing is going to be open!?

Crap, crap, crap, crap!

Just as I start to fret and call the other club members to let them know it's off, the doors open.

Whew!

All that worry for nothing!

I head up to the bar to grab a menu where everyone starts greeting me and laughing about how this is turning into a regular thing and what can they get me?

I've decided that I'm going to be heading into whisky areas that for one reason or another I don't often visit.

So I decide to start the night up with a blended whisky.

Monkey Shoulder to be specific.

I've seen this bottle before in different bottle shops and bars, but I've never tried it and I have to be honest, the name intrigues me, so I grab a dram of this first and decide to find a seat in the corner and decide to give this little guy a whirl.

An interesting and surprisingly complex nose makes my jaw drop open in shock.

Citrus, cinnamon, vanilla, oak, green apples, butterscotch, pears.

Holy crap! A very surprising nose for a run of the mill blend.

I really can't wait to taste this now, it's nose is so inviting.

Brr brr! Errrr! Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Sigh it's not awful, but it's not very good either.

Vanilla, oak, citrus, cinnamon and malt make up the body of this whisky, but all of that lovely complexity that make up the nose have completely disappeared.

A very short slightly citrusy finish ends this whisky and ends the disappointment.

It's not a bad whisky, just a frustrating one. It's like the movie Shallow Hal. The guy sees this REALLY beautiful woman, this woman that just makes you say "God I can't wait to see all of her, get her in bed" and then when she's in bed with you, you realize it's a guy, something TOTALLY not what you were expecting or hoping for.

However at least if this whisky interests you it's not very expensive, running at around $45 AUS and pretty easy to find in most bottleshops.

However if you're looking for a better whisky keep moving on.

You've got me laughing...not about the review, but with your analogy. First you say " Sigh it's not awful but it's not very good either" and then compare it to finding out that what you thought was a hot woman in your bed is actually a dude! To each his own and I'm not judging anyone, but for me nothing could be worse....regardless of how much bourbon I've had.

Hahahaha @MyLoSyRo Yeah I blame it on being tired and starting to overthink everything, I'd originally intended to keep going with the shallow hal aspect, but then I was like, but she wasnt hot, she was fat and then I was going to go with an unattractive girl and was going, nah that doesn't make sense, so yeah it turned into a guy, however I forgot to remove the first part of that analogy :D Glad that it had you laughing though.

@Rantavahti

Monkey Shoulder is a blended malt mix of Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie, bottled by William Grant & Sons. The name comes from an temporary injury suffered by distillery malt men when turning the barley by hand. This was an all-around softy so that's why it reminds me of the Emmanuelle trilogy. The exception is that it's not a dangerous risk taker like Emmanuelle was. Monkey Shoulder is a nice and talented everyday whisky. If it was a hockey player, it probably would be Pat LaFontaine or in the football fields: Matthias Sammer (or some other mid 1990's German footballer).

Nose: Very sweet with floral notes. Some citrus and honey with oak.

Taste: Starts soft and gets softer with honey being the key factor. Vanilla with a soft touch of spice like cinnamon.

Finish: Sweet and soft.

Balance: Monkey Shoulder (Batch 27) keeps its balance very well. It doesn't offer any surprises either. Nice average whisky that doesn't leave you grinning or cheering.

Hi Rantavahti, I am surprised by how positively you have rated this whisky. I was so unimpressed after three attempts to enjoy it that I poured the rest down the sink.

These are my tasting notes from the time:

Nose: Citrus, toffee, wet grass, honey Taste: Slightly sickly sweet toffee, vanilla, butterscotch, honey FInish: Bitter citric acid aftertaste that lets the whole experience down Balance: Muddled, a sense of three components malts neutralising one another out, leaving a bland and underwhelming impression

65/100

For me this wasn't anything unique or worth trying for again but it wasn't bad either (though I hate Glenfiddich).

I've noticed that usually the ones that I hate, are the fruity ones with lots of kick in 'em. Last Saturday I had a big surprise with (generally liked) Mackmyra's first edition, which I hated. Here's the review: connosr.com/reviews/mackmyra/…

And another "fruity kick": connosr.com/reviews/…

@galg

Nose: This one has a great nose! with a lot of vanilla, pears, sweet malty goodness, wood spices and a dash of Cinnamon.

Palate: The palate is a bit rough in my opinion : It’s quite malty, creamy but not very complex, and is a bit of a let down after the promising nose.

Finish: Bitter wood and some mint.

At this price it offers a great nose with a mediocre palate. Bottle presentation with the little monkeys is also cool. But, it’s not one of my Favorites.

The only two adequate glasses of this were my first, from there it's been all downhill. I still have more than half a bottle, and I've decided to use it as a mixer. I was adding Laphroaig which beefed it up a little but this seems like a waste of very good laphroaig! I do think this is overrated whisky in some circles, palate below average and short length.

@markjedi1

Monkey Shoulder is a blended malt, consisting of three single malts, hence the Triple Malt neck label and the three monkeys on the shoulder of the American looking bottle. It is created with Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kinivie, the three Speyside distilleries in the hands of William Grants & Sons. The name refers to a muscle disease that maltmen often got after years of turning the malt with their wooden shiels in the maltbarn. I cannot shake the feeling that this blend is aimed at a young audience, especially after checking out the flashy website.

The first thing I notice on the nose is a bourbonny butterscotch, augmented by pears, prunes and even strawberry. Honeysweet, to say the least. Some nuts and a hint of mint. Very accessible and inviting nose, albeit somewhat light.

The attack is similarly light on nuts and honey, but gives up more citrus than you would have expected from the nose. Syrupy. Some spicy oak rears its head midpalate. Orange zest. Lacks some punch and depth, but certainly leaves many a blend in its shadow.

The finish is short to medium, again on nuts, orange zest and light oaky notes.

I was expecting a mixers whisky and am convinced it is often used for making cocktails because of the sweet character, but this is much more than that.

Completely agree, this has some pedigree and it is certainly better than just a mixer - I feel guilty when I don't have this neat. I find it's an ideal "no thinking" dram for after work etc.

And some trivia: for most, the easiest and most accessible way to taste Kininvie malt (albeit alongside Glenfiddich and Balvenie) - for those that don't know, Kininvie only bottled 2 single malts under the name "Hazelwood" and is not easily found or affordable. Kininvie (Balvenie's "spare" still house for production of whisky exclusively for blending) was closed in 2010.

Picked a bottle of this up on holiday to drink in the evenings; I agree, it's a decent malt but I bought it particularly because I wanted something that I would not feel guilty drinking absent-mindedly. I think the nose outshone the palate and the finish was the weakest part of the whole, but certainly for the price a decent value.

@weiwei1467

When you approach it, you can smell a fresh citrusy sense to it. Then when you taste it, it has a very light sense of freshness you would typically find in the lowlands. After which the slightest oily characteristic hits you and carries you over the middle palette. However at this point most of the taste has dissipated. Finally it ends with a wisps of smoke, characteristic of a Speyside malt. Personally it lacks the length finish you would find in typically find in say Glenfiddich .

The fact that this is a vatted malt from three different distilleries one of which includes the Glenfiddich, the blending process must have shorten the finishing.

All in all this is a good whiskey and something different in terms of profile compared to the other vatted malts. I think it is quite rough for my liking. It lacks it own "oomph" so to speak. The freshness in the beginning, followed by the oily middle taste, which you typically find in a more older type of whisky, ending with a smoky finish, is quite suffice to make a cold winter night more pleasant.

@Kalekas

Again, I apologise for a non standard review. I could strain to identify notes, and florals, and God knows what else in my favourite whiskies, but I remember the occasion for a dram longer than the precise mouth feel of a particular whisky.

I have a special place in my regard for Monkey Shoulder - a vatted malt (I hear sharp indraws of breath) - for one reason alone: it weaned a good friend off his, until then, favoutite tipple, Red Bull and Vodka and moved him on to guid scottish whusky. I knew the bottle would attract him, with it's three cheeky monkeys with tails entwined and I needed a trendy looking product to entice him away from the God-awful aforementioned. The MS worked its magic, and a shared bottle of whisky down, he swore off the dreaded RB&V. Actually, it wasn't bad; in fact Jim Murray rates it highly. It wouldn't be to my taste now (I'd prefer an Islay) but for old times' sake I'll have a glass of it if I see it in a bar. Slaint Mhath!

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