Monkey Shoulder

In a little over a year's time I've accumulated 190 different bottles of whiskey. They're predominately American, with the exception of three Canadian, two Irish, and one bottle of scotch. 62 percent bourbon, 20 percent rye.

In 1964 Congress declared bourbon a distinctive product of the United States. There are some rules to making bourbon. The most important are that it needs to be made from at least 51% corn (the second ingredient is usually rye) and aged in new, charred, American oak barrels.

Rye whiskey, on the other hand, was once a distinctive product of Pennsylvania. It fell out of favor after Prohibition but is making a resurgence. It needs to be made from at least 51% rye (the second ingredient is usually corn) and aged in new, charred oak barrels.

Whereas bourbon is characterized by its sweetness, rye is spicy and bold, like bourbon with a bite. Think of rye as bourbon's renegade cousin. Sometimes rye has a high-corn content and sometimes bourbon has a high-rye content, which can make them hard to distinguish at times. Nevertheless these are two uniquely American whiskeys, which is why I haven't ventured far given the number of products readily available, even if a little out-of-state hunting is required.

I felt adventurous yesterday and picked up another bottle of scotch. To be called scotch it must be made in Scotland and, unlike bourbon and rye, which have no minimum age requirements, it must be aged in oak barrels for three years. There are no grain requirements but malted barley is usually used and many scotches are known for their smokiness from using peat to dry the barley.

Monkey Shoulder is a blend of three single malt scotches. The name comes from a physical injury that distillery workers would get in their shoulder from the repetitive task of turning the barley by hand. It's bottled at 86 proof in the exact same bottle that Cleveland Whiskey uses. This was very enjoyable neat. I drink all my whiskey neat, no ice, no water, just like the distiller intended. The label on the bottle says "Smooth and Rich." It was indeed smooth without any burn on the palate although it did finish with a bit of warmth in the chest. It had just a hint of smokiness. It was very reminiscent of bourbon, probably partially because the barrels they used were "first-fill" ex-bourbon barrels (meaning they were used only once before to age bourbon). While I don't see myself running out to start a scotch collection, this was an excellent find at just $30.

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