Monkey Shoulder is a vatted whisky that — despite being a blend of three distillery’s malts — is so rare that shots on the west coast of the U.S. have typically sold for $20 a glass… when entire bottles sell for under $30. I encountered a bottle of Monkey Shoulder on a recent trip to New York — for all of $27 — and snapped it up. (The name is a reference to a malady suffered by floor malters, who get sore shoulders by working their oversized barley shovels for hours on end.
The whisky has no age statement but is a blend of three Speyside whiskys: Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie, with 27 casks total selected for each bottling by malt master David Stewart.
By and large it’s a classic Speyside whisky. The big malty character offers light, brown-sugar sweetness, backed by notes of heather and, intriguingly, distinct touches of iodine. Underneath that you’ll find cooked fruits, chewy toffee, and notes of incense. It’s more exotic than you’d think. I keep going back to this malt… it’s an easy whisky to like but one that invites tons of discovery. Now that availability is finally expanding, keep an eye out for it.
Update: Brand Ambassador Freddy May clears up some of the info about Monkey Shoulder’s heritage and production in this email:
Batch 27 refers to the original Monkey Shoulder batch which was 27 casks vatted together. The original vatting was made from our three distilleries we have on our site in Dufftown… Kininvie, Glenfiddich & The Balvenie (sometimes affectionately known as the KGB).
Because Brian Kinsman can’t possibly batch it in those numbers anymore we line up runs of 27 at a time for vatting. Occasionally using other distilleries in the mix, but always three Speyside distilleries and always in first fill American oak (i.e. first time they’ve been used in Scotland).