Today we launch the first part of an ongoing series where we look at more budget friendly bottles. Our goal here will be to find the diamonds in the rough for you. In these articles we’re going to limit ourselves to a maximum of £50 a bottle and focus on whiskies that are available all year round.
Ok first up is Monkey Shoulder, if like us you’re wondering like where the name came from you can find it on their website.
Well, in the traditional malt whisky making process, malted barley is turned by hand by malt men using large heavy malt shovels. Years ago, some malt men would develop a strain injury which had a tendency to cause their arm to hang down a bit like a monkey's, so they nicknamed it 'monkey shoulder'.
Monkey Shoulder was historically made from William Grant’s three Speyside distilleries Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie. The present day recipe is a more closely guarded secret than the herbs and spices used by KFC.
Yeasty cereal notes, a touch of cocoa, spiced orange chutney, ripe pear, and some typical vanilla notes you’d expect from a bourbon cask whisky.
Some caramel sweetness, honey and ginger spice. Going back for another sip we’re also getting some orange peel. Finish here is medium length and peppery. This is inoffensive, but also quite bland.
More oak appears, raw alcohol/new make spirit - Quite young smelling but also quite fresh.
Vegemite mixed with brown sugar spread on lightly toasted bread. Finally, there’s some lingering vanilla notes.
Nothing memorable here, but also nothing offensive. Acceptable for a dram, but at around £30 If you’re looking for a light, unpeated, speyside, then you can find a something better at a similar price.
Old Pulteney Huddart
We move on to Old Pulteney Huddart next. For those of you unaware, Huddart is the name of street on which the distillery resides. Released in 2018 as part of the relaunch of the Old Pulteney core range, this is a non age statement that was finished in barrels that had previously held peated whisky.
Lemon peel, coastal sea air, mature cheddar, blueberries, musty wood, the lightest whiff of smoke, and vanilla essence. Honestly, we had to nose this a while to pick everything out. Without effort this smells a little uninteresting and weak.
An initial hit of raw spirit, similar to rubbing alcohol or benedictine. Burnt batter from the remnants of a fish supper, damp mahogany, touch of leather. There’s a bitter aftertaste with a short to medium length finish.
Opens up with more wood on the nose, pine, a bit more of the citrus notes, milky bar, some Maldon sea salt flakes.
Flat, with some alcohol and a bit of charcoal smoke in the background. Short to no finish, which is probably a good thing.
Disappointing overall, we really love this distillery and have been massively let down by this. It's nothing exciting and honestly bit offensive in some ways. Water made the nose a little better, but did nothing for the palate. You can get a really nice bottle for around £40, maybe even one with an age statement and some interesting characteristics, so we’d give this a pass.
Port Charlotte 10
Speaking of bottles around £40 with an age statement… PC10 is one Bruichladdich’s offerings. It's peated to 40ppm, and was matured in a combination of first-fill American whiskey casks, second-fill American whiskey casks and second-fill French wine casks.
Alan: While Daniel’s somehow managed to not taste this yet, I’ve tried this a few years back and have high hopes this will stop us from having to rename the article “drams to avoid”.
This takes us back up eating an ice cream cone on portobello beach, with a gentle sea breeze in the background. Some furniture polish, ripe cherries, dusty classroom, pencil shavings, and crushed mint leaves.
Bunch of sweet fruits, with lots of aniseed straight after. Definitely some peaches, you can almost taste the fuzzy skin, quite juicy. Liquorice Allsorts, acrid smoke, ash after a long burning fire and sour candies. Finish is medium length with the sour note sticking around.
Water hasn’t made anywhere as much of an impact on this as it did to the other whiskies we’ve tried today. The peat smoke is lighter. There’s some slivered almonds here, and sherbet straws.
Initially we're getting more nuttiness, red currants, and tannins. Followed by some freshly cracked black peppercorns and lemon citrus.
Lots going on with or without water, overall a great offering from a very “progressive distillery”. Having tried some other single cask Port Charlottes, we’d like a bit more of the in-your-face punch of ashy peat smoke, but even without that this is solid dram none the less. Is it a coincidence the first dram of the night with an age statement is also the clear favourite? I suppose that’s a question for another article.
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
And that’s all folks. If you’d tried any of these we’d be interested in hearing you thoughts in the comments below. We’d also be interested to hear what other whiskies you’d like us to review in future articles.