A smokey version of Monkey Shoulder? Smokey Monkey…

We all know Monkey Shoulder, right? The Blended malt from the makers of Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Ailsa Bay and Kininvie , William Grant & Sons. It’s been around since 2005, and is quite a basic Blended malt intended for mixing and cocktail creation , rather than a neat sipping whisky, and as such is a lovely ingredient in many cocktails.  In case you’re not familiar with the name- Monkey shoulder is named after a medical condition caused by the long process of turning barley by hand on the malting floors, a manual labor historically which  affected the malt men. After long shifts of constant manual flipping they were suffered from  a condition which caused one arm to hang down just a little, and  they called this monkey shoulder.

Monkey shoulder is often used by bartenders when making cocktails requiring whisky as an ingredient, and according to William Grant & Sons, many of which were asking for a smoky whisky of the same qualities, to be used when creating smokey cocktails…  So, essentially Smokey Monkey, is a softer, gentler replacement for peated malts used in cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, Penicillin, and whisky and ginger.

Monkey Shoulder is produced by blending whiskies which are distilled from lightly peated barley (peated with Highland Peat, rather than Islay peat..).  The peated malt comes from Ailsa Bay, W.Grant & Sons, newest malt whisky distillery in the lowlands, which makes peated whiskies [ read my review of their first NAS offering here ]

As far as I understand, the Smokey Monkey is only available in Bars, and only some currently, and is not going to be sold in shops at this stage. At any rate the whisky is probably not intended for sipping neat, but I will review it neat anyways….


Smokey Monkey, 40 % abv

Nose: earthy peat, highland style and not medicinal  all as can be  expected, a bit of soot and a nice sweetness as well. Quite a sweet-ish smoke indeed, with some vanilla and gentle citrus peel ; flower petals. Very mild . The peat is soft and adds  nice dimension, to the otherwise creamy and malty nose.
Palate:  sweet peat on the get go, then it’s turns creamy and ashy with a nice warming earthiness, vanilla and salted toffee. A fruity note emerges from  beneath the smoke, pear drops.. 
Finish: dry, bitter ash, vanilla and mocha. 


This is a very nice whisky, displaying a good balance between smoke (it’s not a peat-monster, but it packs quite some of it), vanilla, fruitiness and sweetness. It’s quite balanced, and will most certainly server as a good mixing base for many cocktails. The smoke is there indeed, but not too strong, letting the creamy vanilla and peach shine through. Well made, and better than the regular Monkey Shoulder if you ask me (as a sipper).

Good work by Brian Kinsman, as always.

Score: 83/100

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *