Thursday, 13 January 2011

This year’s dark horse is a Monkey!

Most years one or two brands really take off. In 2010 it was Sailor Jerry and Jägermeister making giant leaps forward in their popularity. Before that Magners had a massive boom and if you head a little further back you could not move for Absolut Vodka. There was even a time you needed to be drinking Mateus Rosé to keep up with the Jones’.

It may be a foolish man who makes predictions about the future – far better to simply comment on the past – but I am going to be that fool here. For 2011 the next big thing will be Monkey Shoulder Triple Malt Whisky.

Monkey Shoulder has been around for about six or seven years now and is just starting to get some traction with drinkers. For the first few years Monkey was only available in the high end bars of London, Edinburgh et al but over time distribution has spread. Today you can find the triple malt whisky starting to appear in the mainstream on-trade and in the supermarket chains. A retail price around £22 means it’s on the expensive side if you view it as a blend but excellent value if as a Malt.

So why is Monkey Shoulder going to break its shackles in 2011? Firstly there is a gradual shift in what drinkers are looking for. Yes, the bars are still full of the Vodka generation but taste and flavour are back - Malt Whisky is growing again and Rum is the fastest growing of all the spirits categories. Men are looking to be masculine again on the back of TV shows like Mad Men and , looking for something new women are a huge driver of growth for quality whisky. Secondly, Monkey Shoulder manages to combine top quality whisky with an innovative and exciting brand image – a perfect combination for those looking to show they are moving on to something a little more serious to drink.

The whisky itself is deliciously smooth. All the lovely sweet flavours you can get from the most buttery and delicious of Scotch’s – vanilla, toffee, brown sugar and honey. There is enough pedigree for the seasoned whisky drinker (the blend is made up of Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie) and yet it remains approachable enough for the experimenter. As for the brand – hugely important if it is to explode this year – it is young, different, exciting and engaging. The web site ( is interactive and rather than spend its time discussing tasting notes and history it focuses on what cocktails you can make and events they putting on.  

Finally I have to cover off the question that’s always asked – why is it called Monkey Shoulder? Simple really, it’s a nod to a condition suffered by the old time malt men at the distilleries. In turning the malting barley with shovels they developed a shoulder condition similar to tennis elbow and affectionately knew it as ‘monkey shoulder’.

Monkey Shoulder Triple Malt Whisky
Nose: Light, citrus fruit, toffees
Palate: Sweetness – vanilla, brown sugar. Balanced with grain cereal
Finish: Not long but pleasing. Invites another drink

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