Can a blended scotch be better than a single malt?
Perhaps, if it is blended from a base that includes some of Speyside’s finest single malts in Scotland, including Glenffidich and Balvenie.
And how do you define “better.” If better to you means creating a spirit that can easily be enjoyed neat, but really shines when mixed into fresh, innovative cocktails?
Then yes…but it may only be Monkey Shoulder Triple Vatted Malt Scotch.
Just introduced to Texas this summer, this smooth and approachable scotch, filled with orange and tangerine notes combined with toasted almond, hazelnut and slight vanilla creaminess has already become a hit with both the older and younger demographic scotch drinker throughout other parts of the world. Now available throughout Texas and Illinois (only), this scotch can easily be enjoyed on its own or created into cocktails like their “Monkey Jam Sour” or “Ginger Brewskie.”
Brand Ambassador, Dean Callan, was in town last week meeting with the USBG (United States Bartenders Guild) and I had a chance to sit down with him and taste. I had tried the Monkey Jam cocktail during the Craft Cocktails Texas opening party, when the product first hit the market in Dallas, but this was a nice opportunity to taste it on its own and learn a few tricks of the trade from Dean, including the best way to open the aromas and flavors of the scotch was simply to blow into a glass filled with a 2 ounce pour of scotch (no need to swirl or stir.) The hotness of the 85 proof alcohol dissipates leaving the fruit and nutty aromas of the spirit intact.
Over a glass at Bolla Bar at the Stoneleigh Hotel Dean filled me in on a little more information about the brand, including the name. Monkey Shoulder was a term that referred to a temporary shoulder injury workers would get after turning the barley for scotch by hand over long hours. Though Monkey Shoulder still uses hand turning of the barley for their scotch, the hours aren’t as long and the process has improved, making the name a respectful nod to all those malt men of the past.
Started in 2005 Monkey Shoulder is made by taking three different scotches, including Balvenie and Glenffidich along with single malt from Kininvie Distillery, all owned by William Grant & Sons. After blending the scotch is left to age in bourbon casks for “a period of time.” (Only the malt master knows how long, but around 6-12 years.) They purposefully don’t put the age on the bottle as the goal is to emphasize the flavor and freshness and not get bogged down with the age.
Monkey Shoulder retails for about $30 a bottle, which is right in the Dewar’s or Chivas range, and is available in most liquor stores now; below are a few cocktail ideas Dean shared to create your own monkey cocktail.
Directions – Add all ingredients other than beer to shaker, shake well with ice. Strain into a beer mug and top with beer.
MONKEY MINT JULEP
3 parts Monkey Shoulder
1/3 part sugar syrup
9 fresh mint leaves
Directions – Place mint leaves in the base of a cup, add sugar syrup and softly press to release the oils. Add the Monkey Shoulder and crushed ice and stir. Keep stirring, adding more ice until frozen. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.
Directions – Add all ingredients to shaker. Shake well with ice. Strain into glass. Garnish with an orange twist.