What Type of Whiskey Is Monkey Shoulder?

by Kaia

When diving into the world of whiskey, one name that frequently emerges in conversations among enthusiasts and novices alike is Monkey Shoulder. But what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder? This distinctive whiskey, with its playful name and unique blend, has garnered a loyal following and piqued the interest of many. In this article, we will explore the origins, composition, and characteristics of Monkey Shoulder to understand what type of whiskey it is, and why it stands out in the crowded whiskey market.


The Origin and Heritage of Monkey Shoulder

Understanding what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder requires delving into its origins and the heritage that shapes its unique profile. Monkey Shoulder hails from Scotland, a country renowned for its rich history and expertise in whiskey production. It is a product of William Grant & Sons, a family-owned distillery with over a century of experience in crafting premium spirits.


The name “Monkey Shoulder” itself has an interesting backstory. It refers to a condition that malt men used to develop while turning the barley by hand during the whiskey-making process. This repetitive task often caused one arm to hang down like a monkey’s shoulder, hence the name. Although the labor-intensive process has modernized, the name pays homage to the traditional craftsmanship and dedication of those early workers.


The Composition: A Unique Blend

To truly understand what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder, it’s essential to look at its composition. Monkey Shoulder is a blended malt Scotch whiskey. This means it is made from a blend of single malt whiskies, all from different distilleries, rather than a blend of malt and grain whiskies which is more common in many other Scotch blends.


Specifically, Monkey Shoulder is a blend of three single malts from William Grant & Sons’ distilleries: Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie. Each of these distilleries brings its own unique flavor profile to the blend, creating a whiskey that is both complex and balanced. This triple malt blend is relatively rare in the whiskey world, contributing to Monkey Shoulder’s distinctive character.

Flavor Profile and Tasting Notes

When exploring what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder, its flavor profile is a central aspect. Monkey Shoulder is renowned for its smooth and rich taste, making it accessible to both new whiskey drinkers and seasoned aficionados. On the nose, it offers a malty, sweet aroma with hints of vanilla, honey, and a touch of spice.

Upon tasting, the first impression is often of a creamy, mellow sweetness with notes of vanilla, caramel, and citrus. As it develops on the palate, flavors of oak, malt, and a subtle hint of spice emerge, providing depth and complexity. The finish is smooth and lingering, with a pleasing warmth that invites another sip.

Production Process: Craftsmanship and Quality

The production process of Monkey Shoulder is integral to understanding what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder. The whiskey-making process begins with carefully selected malted barley, which is mashed and fermented to produce a wash. This wash is then distilled in copper pot stills, a traditional method that helps to concentrate the flavors and aromas.

After distillation, the whiskey is aged in oak casks, which impart additional flavors and characteristics. The maturation process is critical, as the interaction between the whiskey and the wood of the cask can greatly influence the final product. The master blenders at William Grant & Sons then skillfully combine the single malts from Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie to create the harmonious blend that is Monkey Shoulder.

Versatility and Popularity in Cocktails

Another key aspect of what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder lies in its versatility. While many whiskies are enjoyed neat or on the rocks, Monkey Shoulder has gained popularity for its adaptability in cocktails. Its smooth and approachable flavor profile makes it an excellent choice for a wide range of mixed drinks.

One of the most popular cocktails featuring Monkey Shoulder is the classic Old Fashioned. The whiskey’s sweetness and spice complement the bitters and sugar, creating a well-balanced and flavorful drink. Monkey Shoulder is also a favorite in whiskey sours, where its smoothness and citrus notes shine. Bartenders and mixologists appreciate its ability to elevate cocktails without overpowering the other ingredients.

Awards and Recognition

Understanding what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder also involves recognizing its accolades and the esteem it holds in the industry. Monkey Shoulder has received numerous awards and high ratings from whiskey critics and competitions. These accolades not only highlight its quality but also its standing among other premium whiskies.

For instance, Monkey Shoulder has won Gold at the International Spirits Challenge and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. These prestigious awards reflect the craftsmanship and dedication that goes into producing Monkey Shoulder, cementing its reputation as a top-tier blended malt whiskey.

Market Position and Consumer Appeal

In exploring what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder, its market position and consumer appeal are noteworthy. Monkey Shoulder occupies a unique niche in the whiskey market. Positioned as a premium yet approachable whiskey, it appeals to a broad audience, from casual drinkers to connoisseurs.

Its branding and marketing strategy play a significant role in its appeal. The playful name and distinctive bottle design, featuring three brass monkeys, make it stand out on the shelf. Monkey Shoulder is often associated with a sense of fun and adventure, breaking the traditional mold of whiskey being a serious and solemn drink.

Sustainability and Ethical Practices

In today’s world, consumers are increasingly interested in the ethical and environmental practices of the brands they support. Understanding what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder also involves looking at the sustainability efforts of its producer, William Grant & Sons.

The company has committed to various sustainability initiatives, including reducing its carbon footprint, minimizing waste, and sourcing ingredients responsibly. By investing in renewable energy and sustainable farming practices, William Grant & Sons ensures that Monkey Shoulder is not only a high-quality product but also one that aligns with modern values of environmental stewardship.

Comparisons with Other Whiskies

To further understand what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder, it is helpful to compare it with other types of whiskies. As a blended malt, Monkey Shoulder differs significantly from single malts, blended Scotch, and other whiskey varieties such as bourbon and rye.

Single malt whiskies are produced from malted barley at a single distillery and often have distinct regional characteristics. Blended Scotch, on the other hand, combines malt whisky with grain whisky, resulting in a different flavor profile. Bourbon and rye, primarily produced in the United States, use different grains (corn and rye, respectively) and have distinct production regulations, leading to unique taste profiles.

Monkey Shoulder’s blend of three single malts gives it a complexity and depth that can rival many single malts, while its smoothness and approachability make it competitive with premium blended Scotch whiskies. Its versatility in cocktails also sets it apart from many single malts, which are often consumed neat.

Cultural Impact and Popularity

The cultural impact and popularity of Monkey Shoulder are integral to understanding what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder. In recent years, Monkey Shoulder has become a staple in bars and homes around the world. Its popularity is driven not only by its quality but also by its approachable and fun image.

Monkey Shoulder frequently appears at whiskey festivals and events, where it is celebrated for its unique blend and flavor profile. It has also become a favorite among younger whiskey drinkers, who appreciate its versatility and the modern twist it brings to traditional whiskey drinking.

The Future of Monkey Shoulder

Looking ahead, the future of Monkey Shoulder seems bright. Understanding what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder involves recognizing its potential for growth and innovation. William Grant & Sons continue to experiment with new expressions and limited editions, offering whiskey enthusiasts new ways to enjoy Monkey Shoulder.

The brand’s commitment to quality, sustainability, and consumer engagement ensures that it will remain a prominent player in the whiskey market. Whether enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, Monkey Shoulder continues to embody the spirit of innovation and tradition in the world of whiskey.


In conclusion, what type of whiskey is Monkey Shoulder? It is a blended malt Scotch whiskey that combines the best single malts from Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie distilleries. Its smooth, rich flavor profile, versatility in cocktails, and playful branding make it a standout choice in the whiskey market. With a heritage rooted in traditional craftsmanship and a forward-looking approach to sustainability and consumer engagement, Monkey Shoulder represents the perfect blend of the old and the new in the world of whiskey. Whether you are a seasoned whiskey connoisseur or a curious newcomer, Monkey Shoulder offers a delightful and accessible experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.



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