Spank Your Monkey

Taste Review #56 – Monkey Shoulder / Smokey Monkey

This review turns it attention back towards blends, and today we are looking at the Monkey Shoulder Brand. I chose this title in my quest to get something quirky and eyecatching. Usually when my wife and I have a pleasurable but not so good for you treat, we say that it’s been naughty, and that it needs punished. Well, what better punishment for a whisky than a good spanking? Any connotations to any other practices is entirely in your own mind. I’m sure the schoolboy humour in some of you will still make you snigger though…… I did!

Monkey Shoulder – Caged Monkey

Monkey Shoulder was released initially in 2005, and was intended to be the sort of whisky that would appeal to younger whisky drinkers that weren’t really into the geeky side of whisky and the old man image. Primarily the focus has been on using the spirit in whisky cocktails. The funky name comes from an affliction suffered by distillery malt men who were employed to turn over the malting barley on the malting floor. Similar to tennis elbow, it caused the arm on the affected side to hang low like a monkey limb, and hence the nickname. Of course this is something that is of a bygone age thanks to modern health and safety laws, and the tiny amount of distilleries that still do their malting in the traditional way.

A part of the William Grant & Sons range, Monkey Shoulder initially was made from spirit that was produced in their three Dufftown distilleries, namely Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. However, despite attempts to get this confirmed, this was unsuccessful. However, since the Ailsa Bay distillery has opened, it is open to interpretation if spirit from this Lowland distillery has been used.

Smokey Monkey

In August 2017, Smokey Monkey was released, initially only to the licensed trade, but in 2019 it then became widely available to the general public. Is there much of a difference to these blends, and are they any good?

Smokey Monkey

Smokey Monkey notes in italics




These blends have no age statement


Both whiskies are at 40%


Both whiskies are Honeyed Gold


Sweet, caramel, vanilla, malt, hot chocolate powder, cinnamon

Smokey – Sweet smoke with a hint of charred wood. Honey. The smoke isn’t that strong but it hides a lot of any other aromas. I also picked up a note of decay and leather


Creamy mouth feel, but no real spirit hit in the arrival. Butterscotch, buttery toast, malt, apricot.

SmokeyAgain a creamy arrival, with spices in attendance, oak, vanilla, honey. Slight peat with more heat than the original


Medium, spicy oak. Finish disappears to nothing if water is added.

Smokey – Same as the original, it is a medium finish with spicy oak augmented by the smokey wood notes and a very slight peat. After a while I got a petrol note too.

Standard Monkey Shoulder on right


The standard Monkey Shoulder used to be a blend that I would recommend. Indeed it is a very easy going blend to drink and if the three malts supposed to be in it are anything to go by, then it should be a relatively good product. This was a blend that I used from time to time in whisky tastings, and never heard many negative comments. However, after a tasting with some relative whisky novices and one person who knew a bit about it, a few of them didn’t like the Monkey Shoulder at all. Now I am wondering if the whisky had oxidised, or if it was just in comparison to the other single malts that I had provided them with before hand. However, I hadn’t given them anything premium to begin with, so I realised that perhaps I had to review my opinion of this whisky.

It also gave me a good chance to review the Smokey Monkey alongside it. I have had a bottle of Smokey Monkey long before it was available to the general public, and soon got a sample sized bottle as soon as Drinks By The Dram started producing them. I must say this has been a very interesting analysis, and not necessarily for good reasons.

I have to admit, that having sat down to taste my standard Monkey Shoulder, it was completely underwhelming. It wasn’t unpleasant, but well it wasn’t great either. Perhaps this has been constructed to be in a whisky cocktail, as when I added water, the finish disappeared completely. I wouldn’t have expected that, but then again being the traditionalist that I am, I don’t generally drink whisky cocktails, and at 40%, I’ve never felt the need to add water.

Moving onto the Smokey Monkey. Oh dear, I really don’t know what to write. I think it is better to say that this was not my cup of tea at all and that is being kind. It was almost the same as the standard Monkey Shoulder, with the addition of some smokey aroma, which to me reminded me of wood smoke more than peat reek. However while I did get a sense of peat, it was fairly muted. Disturbingly I thought I initially got a smell of something decomposing or vegetal on the initial nosings, which isn’t the greatest of starts to a pleasurable tasting. Again, probably better in a cocktail, but I am not likely to be finding out.

One thing I found out when I was doing a bit of research, that initially the recommended serve for this was 2 shots of standard Monkey Shoulder to one of Smokey Monkey, and the idea you added the smokey whisky to your taste. Well, that sort of defeats the purpose doesn’t it? However it does help you sell a lot more whisky in a bar. However, as I found the Monkey Shoulder just to be drinkable and that’s all and the Smokey Monkey pretty unpalatable, I did mix both samples together, and that made something a lot more drinkable, but still not great.

Do I recommend these whiskies? Well, I guess that you should probably realise by now it will be a no, I do not recommend them. They aren’t expensive, being in the order of £29 for a 70cl bottle, but to me, these are just a gimmicky whisky which admittedly may taste better within a cocktail, but smack of more marketing than substance. Kind of disappointing when you think of the brands that go into making this whisky. It’s even more disappointing when you think you can get a litre of Famous Grouse for £20. I think I prefer the Grouse.

Right, because my whisky has disappointed me and I can’t bear to pour it down the sink, I’m away to give my monkey a damned good spanking. That will give the childish amongst you one last opportunity to snigger.

Yours in Spirits


Index of tastings here

Index of articles here

This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

Ice Ice Baby!

To add ice or not? That is the question.

For another Saturday article in a row I find myself on a Friday afternoon with nothing written to give to you the next day. With all the big splutter that I have decent articles in hand (and some controversial opinions too!) I find myself like a damp squib. Not to worry, such is the world of whisky that there is always something to write about. While I cannot guarantee a long article, I can guarantee points to think about and mull over

Today was boiler service day. I have an old oil boiler that is spluttering along and I keep saying to myself it’s on its last legs, but my local plumber comes and waves his magic and boom! It’s like new again. However it was my plumbers turn to be subjected to whisky geek Scotty, but we had a very interesting conversation. You see, my plumber likes ice in his whisky.

Yes. I know. I’m quite aware that many of you may have given a sharp intake of breath, but as they say in much of Scotland – “Haud yer wheesht!” That’s Scots for shut your mouth.

Everybody is an expert on how a whisky should be drunk. But in many of the cases they are wrong. Let me put my expert hat on and explain why you should or shouldn’t put ice in your whisky.

Why you shouldn’t put ice in your whisky

Whisky is an alcoholic spirt that contains many different flavour and aroma compounds. Without going into any science at all as that is boring and geeky, these aromas are formed by the evaporation of the spirit in the glass. A curved glass such as a Glencairn, sherry copita or even a wine glass will concentrate these aromas so that when you put your nose to the glass, you’ll get a smell of the spirit within and this will be a precursor to the taste. Even if you are not going to be doing an evaluative tasting of the whisky, getting a smell of it before it hits your lips is important. This is because as the smell goes up your nose and down the back of your throat, parts of the aroma will be coating the back end of your tongue. This is prepping your mouth for the delight that is to follow. Unless you have chosen your whisky poorly or your host is a cheapskate.

If you put ice into whisky, or any other alcoholic spirit, this hinders the taste, as the spirit will not evaporate as efficiently and the aromas will be locked into the liquid. Therefore you are missing that little bit of taste. Furthermore, the taste components will also be that little less mobile and the temperature of the liquid is going to stun some of your tastebuds, so you just aren’t going to be able to taste the fullness of what is in your glass.

You don’t need to knife anybody who likes ice in their dram.

Why you should put ice in your whisky

Well, if we are all the same the world would be a boring place. Irregardless of why you shouldn’t put ice in your whisky, if that is the way you like it then why not? If you want to put soda water, lemonade or coke in your drink, that is entirely up to you. I’ll contend that it isn’t right, and that it would be a waste to do that to an expensive whisky, but if that is how you will enjoy it more then that is entirely up to you. And you get the kudos of being the guy who doesn’t give two hoots if you are seen to be putting ice into a 72 year old Macallan. Or mixing it with Irn Bru.

So what about these whiskies that should be put in the freezer?

Let me tell you under no circumstances put any whisky in the freezer. It is just a gimmick. The ones I know of that recommend this are Dalwhinnie Winter Gold and Johnny Walker “White Walker” (part of the Game of Thrones package). You know why they recommend you do this? It’s because you aren’t drinking the best whisky that Diageo have to offer. Winter Gold isn’t that bad if drunk normally, but you’ll get a far better dram out of the 15 yr old.

Winter’s Gold got its name as it is made from spirit distilled in the winter months. As Dalwhinnie is one of the highest distilleries in Scotland and uses traditional worm tubs, when the winter weather is at its harshest this has an effect on the condensing rate of the spirit vapour in the tub as the cooling water is a lot colder than normal. Therefore it has an effect on the taste. Putting the bottle in the freezer will just obliterate any taste that is there.

As for Johnny Walker? I’m not a fan. Especially the Game of Thrones series, as it is just a way of separating people from their money.

Remember – gimmicks get you to drink more sub-premium whisky in my opinion. And GoT contained very little premium whisky.


So, whether you like ice in your whisky or not, it is important just to chill out about it. While I will always recommend tasting a whisky neat first or with a few drops of water, I’ve often thought how some whiskies may taste nicer with a bit of ginger and ice. Remember in your quest for taste experiences, whether you take ice or not isn’t really important if you want to. It’s more important to think outside the box and not be stuck inside one.

Anyway, with that in the bag, and written before the clock passes midnight, I hope that my plumber enjoyed the drams that I sent him away with so much that he forgets to post his invoice although chance will be a fine thing!

Slainte Mhath!


Index of tastings here

Index of articles here

This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit by clicking on the link.

Photo credits

photos – Shutterstock