Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Food

Jews Argue Over Whisky

A recent addition to the American market, Monkey Shoulder is a blend of three single malts.

Column 1: January 2015
Lagavulin 16 vs. Monkey Shoulder

I had whisky plans with a highly agreeable chap I hadn’t seen since the autumn.

“My good fellow, you seem in fine fettle,” I greeted him.

“Likewise, I’m sure.” He responded.

We sat at a banquette that locals call a booth.

“Those Israeli elections!”

“Indeed.”

“Your winter break?”

“Ah, yes.”

“Charlie Hebdo.”

“Of course. Alas.”

We started our drinking with the young pretender, Monkey Shoulder. I was excited to see it on the menu and, more importantly, actually on the shelf of our depleted tavern as I’d heard about it in the New Year as a tasty and good value option that hadn’t been available in America until recently. A blend of three quality Single Malts — Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie — it comes of good stock.

Caramel notes on the tongue but then a confusion of flavors, like a tangle of wires heading in whisky directions. No discernible finish, just a dissolute fanfare of malty tones blaring briefly into the palate. A mild disappointment. Perhaps a veneer of woodiness. The most amusing thing is the name, born not of an ingredient, but of a muscular ailment caused by stirring the barley.

“The family?”

“Yes. And yours?”

“And our mutual friends?”

“I’ve spoken to some, but not for years.”

Illustrative stories. Memories. Occasional aspirations and plans.

Lagavulin, from the Scottish island of Islay.

A smoky aroma of the Lagavulin 16 wafted over the table. Our young waiter, with fashionable facial hair, remarked that this liquid fire from southern Islay was the whisky of choice of someone called Ron Swanson, in the show “Parks and Recreation,” following the predilections of Nick Offerman, who plays the rôle on television.

A taste of toffee and bonfires, a lingering finish of charcoal that is unsurprising in a single malt Islay, but distinctive even among its peaty brethren. A development of dark flavors as the taste carries you up on its smoke from the bonfire to the wooden chimney and out to the delicious island sky.

“I’m writing a column called Jews Argue Over Whisky.”

“Excellent.”

“But, sir, there is no argument, you are entirely lacking in disputation!”

“Right again.”

“Won’t you disagree for the sake of the series?”

“And what, pray, would my remuneration be?”

“The pleasure of my company.”

Motto: You get what you pay for.

Lagavulin 16: We paid $18 a glass; $50-$60 a bottle in the stores
Monkey Shoulder: We paid $10 a glass; $35-45 a bottle in stores
(Prices subject to local and seasonal variation)

Dan Friedman is the managing editor of the Forward.

Engage

  • Events

    Haart to Haart

    Virtual

    Dec 7, 2022

    7 pm ET · 

    A conversation with Julia Haart and her son Shlomo, stars of Netflix's 'My Unorthodox Life,' about the new season and much more.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.