Recently while enjoying cigars with The Woodlands Cigar Club at Kirby’s Steak House, I received a tip from Jesse Wood, Associate Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich.

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label

We had long ranging conversations on cigars and whisky and I told him that whenever I am out having a routine drink, I order Johnnie Walker Black with a splash of soda.

While this isn’t my splurge drink, it is a serviceable one that’s readily available and reliable no matter where on the planet I am.

Regardless of my justification, he still gave me the same unintentional look I’d give someone if they told me they regularly enjoyed Gurkha‘s. Keep in mind, I am the last person to ‘cigar shame’ someone, but I will gladly offer alternatives in similar price points if they are open to trying new cigars that they just might enjoy more.

Jesse didn’t volunteer his opinion, but I knew he was holding back so I prodded him and asked him what he thought.

Before divulging his tip, he did go out of his way to ensure he wasn’t slamming Johnnie Walker or any other drink of choice of the common man, but if I was serious about getting intimate with quality whiskeys, then I’d be better off staying away from grains.

Monkey Shoulder 'Triple Malt' Blended Whiskey

Monkey Shoulder ‘Triple Malt’ Blended Whiskey

Then he proceeded to introduce me to Monkey Shoulder by Glenfiddich. While Johnnie Walker Black Label is blended with nearly 40 different whiskeys with some originating from corn & wheat, Monkey Shoulder is a blend of only 3 Speyside single malts Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie without a drop of ‘grain whiskey’.

Why does this matter?

“Malt whiskey is made exclusively from malted barley, prepared traditionally in small batches in the pot-still method. It is still a hand-crafted artisan product.

“Grain whisky” in contrast is produced by a much simpler and more economical method, using a continuous column still that is an example of the 19th century industrial revolution at work. This method produces a lot more whisky more quickly, on a truly industrial scale.” (source)

So I went out to my local Spec’s and purchased a bottle of Monkey Shoulder for $32.99. To put it bluntly, that is a steal for such a quality drink.

I came home, poured a cup neat and took a sniff. There was a strong aroma of vanilla and caramel and with hints of citrus and general sweetness.

At first sip, I couldn’t help but notice how smooth it was. While Johnnie Walker is also smooth, Monkey Shoulder offers a ton of more depth in flavor. To be clear, we aren’t talking about The Abyss type depth, but we also aren’t skating on the surface in terms of its flavor profile. It’s a hearty whisky with a solid medium body.

It finished off clean with a crisp fruity undertone over an earthy exclamation point.

In between sips, I enjoyed looking at its beautiful copper / gold color and thinking, this just may be the best whiskey under $35.00.

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