Monkey Shoulder Scotch & St. Agnes V.S.O.P. brandy

G’day all and a warm and cheerful welcome to you all to the first article of my website. My name is Mitchell if you haven’t already caught onto that, call me Mitch. I am very happy for this website to succeed as a project as I share my findings on fine wines and spirits, a subject I’m very passionate about and keen to learn more on and explore it. This blog has been a long time coming, I’ve tried twice now to make this a vlog on YouTube but it never worked out. I should have learnt the first time that a computer that couldn’t process light film editing or my application for my firearms license couldn’t run a YouTube channel, so thank God I’m a good writer. I’m not one for over-emotional speeches and I’m very keen to get this site started so I’m going to dive straight into this first post, hit the ground running. Since this is my first article, I’m making this first post a doubleheader. First, my favourite type of liquor; whisky, and I think it’s only right to support the domestic market and include an Australian label in my post. So let’s christen the start of this website and celebrate it’s first post right, by cracking open a bottle of the good stuff!

Monkey Shoulder blended Scotch whiskySee no evil, hear no evil, drink no evil.JPG

I’ve been pushing this malt on people from the day I’ve tasted it, it has to be the smoothest blended Scotch I’ve tasted to date. It’s a fantastic value for money malt, punching well above its weight.

The first time I tasted this was in a local pub in Maryborough. What first drew my attention to it was it’s unusual name. I thought it was a little amusing, and that if I enjoyed it I could tell people I “had a bit of Monkey Shoulder with lunch”. Not that a half shot of whisky in a tumbler of ice that while I was waiting for my chicken parmigiana to arrive usually ended up being a small portion of malt and mostly dissolved ice and table water could cause anyone any mischief mind you. As it turns out it’s name is less silly, and more celebratory irony. “Monkey Shoulder” in medical terms, was a disorder maltmen contracted from their heavy labor turning the tons malting barley on the malting floor which caused their arms to hang from their shoulders, like monkeys. Right on the bottle it says that because of technology thankfully this condition no longer exists. I’m too young and in the wrong part of the world to know anything real about how bad this problem was, but evidently they’re glad to see the end of the problem so I’d imagine for the poor maltmen trying to put bread on the table it meant pain and some inability to work. As a sufferer of scoliosis, the thought of all that crippling shoulder damage gives me the creeps. Thankfully I can’t actually tell you any more on the subject, since whenever I Google it, the search just brings up whisky. The brand obviously caught onto the good idea that they brand their bottles with the Three Monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) to capitalize on their popularity to sell. Anyway enough history, let’s have a taste.

First, the whisky has a full rich caramel color, a slightly dark golden in fact. Maybe a single shade darker than your average pub Chivas Regal 12 year old. But what speaks volumes to me is this bottle is sealed with a cork, and not a regular aluminum cap. While there’s many spirits out there capped with regular old twist off caps that are perfectly respectable and straight-sipping, not once have I come across a bottle with a proper cork that was intended to be mixed, I once drank a bottle of Blanton’s Single Barrel Reserve, the best bourbon I had ever drank and defy you to find a spirits pourer that could even fit in it’s carefully made neck.

Now we open the bottle. The nose is beautifully thick of peat. But not excessively so like so many. It opens up to a rich, sweet, fruity nose, not unlike a fine bourbon.

I pour myself a glass. I use rocks ice, Scotch benefits from the slight dillusion. The taste is sweet and welcoming, smooth on the tongue, but a bold spice of peat on the finish. A beautiful blend of both. It leaves a full spice in the mouth, and a light tamed taste.

In closing: I highly recommend this whisky to all. It is exceptional value for money, with taste parallel to that of more expensive whiskeys. I would, have, and will drink again

St. Agnes V.S.O.P. brandy

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So here now, is the candidate from the domestic market because I want to let it be known in no uncertain terms I am a proud Australian and show everyone overseas my country has a proud, rich and effective wine industry. I have a great fondness for brandy that I think needn’t be explained, wine wearing whiskey’s clothes. St. Agnes is a Victorian label I already have great confidence in, since their V.S. (Very special) brandy is readily available in every R.S.L. I’ve ever ate at and quite a few pubs. Off the top of my head I’d say it is a typical brandy, full of tastes of cinnamon and Christmas cake. Therefore I have no reason to think their pricier V.S.O.P. (Very superior old pale) shouldn’t be something to tell your mates about, this is just based on the quality of Victorian wine which I should think would leave plenty of room to grow. Since for a little while when I had just reached my second decade I used to live off Victorian wine while I endured a small engines course that amounted to nothing.

The bottle is a dark blue label, sporting a proud badge of it’s St. Agnes label and its 5 year barrel age. The brandy seen from outside the bottle is a full rich dark brown, a much darker shade than the golden caramel colour typical of brandys and whiskeys. A tea mug of brown sugar dissolving in boiling water immediately springs to mind. The taste buds already tingle in anticipation of a full-bodied taste of French Oak and distilled high country grapes.

I crack open the bottle and the nose is abundant of fruity smells. Cinnamon, sugar, syrups, Christmas cake, even a small hint of honey. But the nose is surprisingly tame, certainly it doesn’t overpower you like so many other spirits.

I use a Glencairns glass for my brandy, I drink my brandy neat. Brandy doesn’t impart spicy tastes like whiskey does, if it’s too hot to drink brandy neat, it is truly hot by anybody’s standards. As I sip it, it seems almost syrupy in texture. And tastes like hot caramel, with the traditional finish of cinnamon and hazelnut typical of French oak. And an aftertaste of green apple. And like a true brandy, after a decent gulp it burns in your chest

In closing: I’ve always thought that Australian brandy was a real competitor to the import brandys. While whether they are by literal definition better is a discussion for a later date, but this brandy is a beautifully crafted drink that I enjoy and I look forward to enjoying again

Thank you for reading and I implore you to return and support my work. Now I think I pour another drink. To success, cheers!

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