I’ve spoken before about how important it is to try before you buy: whisky is an expensive hobby after all and no-one likes to be disappointed with their latest purchase. Look out for tastings at local bars or retailers or even join a whisky club… Ask the staff at a well stocked bar and try as many different things as you can. Ask what’s new in your local specialist, they may even have something open. Ask friends for their opinion and of course, check out blogs and websites (like this one). Then of course there’s miniatures…
Miniatures are 5cl bottles – a couple of drams worth – and offer a great opportunity to try something new without breaking the bank.
Just recently I saw a Monkey Shoulder miniature at my local supermarket for a measly £3. A regular bottle comes in around £25, which certainly isn’t expensive but it’s still nice to have the option to purchase a small sample.
Monkey Shoulder is a blended malt, produced by William Grant & Sons (whom you may remember from my review of Glenfiddich 15), sometimes called a triple malt because it’s a blend of three single malts: Glenfiddich, Kininvie and Balvenie. The rather bizarre name derives from an injury suffered by distillery workers in the old days… Working the malting floor, turning grain with shovels all day long was back-breaking work and often led to a painful shoulder which was dubbed ‘monkey shoulder’. While very few distilleries still operate their own malt floor, the name acts as an affectionate tribute to the hardy maltmen of old.
On the nose is Honey, Chocolate & Fudge, Heather and Coffee, while on the palate there’s Dark Chocolate, Honey, Salted Caramel, Cocoa and Coffee. It’s bottled at just 40% but then this isn’t supposed to be an easy drinking everyday dram and isn’t trying to be anything else. In fact, their website even advertises its usefulness as a cocktail ingredient.
The Scores: About the scoring system
Smell: 16 / 20. The Honey, Chocolate and Fudge notes are a winning combination.
Taste: 15 / 20. There’s a slightly bitter coffee note that comes in towards the finish that adds a lovely little bit of depth.
Value: 8 / 10. Cant argue at £25 (or £3 for the miniature) for a bottle of this. It’s only 40% but there’s a good flavour profile going on. Bottled at 46% it would be very interesting!
Total: 39 / 50. It’s not the sort of whisky you contemplate for hours but nonetheless it’s decent quality for the price and very enjoyable.