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Monkey Shoulder vs Buffalo Trace: Which Wins?

Discover the differences between Monkey Shoulder vs Buffalo Trace in this head to head comparison and decide which is better for You!

Monkey Shoulder

NoseMarmalade, vanilla, baking spice
PalateMalt, vanilla, orange, honey, oak
FinishShort, caramel, oak spice
Alcohol content80 proof (40% ABV)
How to drinkRocks, cocktails
Similar toChivas Regal 12, Copper Dog

The nose brings a marmalade aroma, with hints of vanilla, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.

On the palate, the Monkey Shoulder feels smooth and creamy with very little heat on the first sip. Hints of vanilla, orange and honey pop-up, followed by a bit of oak spice bitterness.

The finish is short, with a tad of caramel and more oak spice bitterness to it.

The Monkey Shoulder becomes better when adding a drop of water as it becomes sweeter, while subduing the oak spice note.

Monkey Shoulder is an easy whiskey, good choice for those new to whisky looking for something approachable and affordable and makes one of the best Scotch Whiskies for beginners.

Where this whisky shines is in cocktails as its flavor profiles mixes incredibly well in any cocktail such as a Rob Roy.

The Monkey Shoulder is not a Single Malt Scotch but a blend of single malts coming from 3 different distilleries across Scotland: Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Kinnivie.

It can’t be considered a single malt as the set of regulations that govern Scotch whisky require single malts to be made at a single distillery.

There are a few facts worth knowing about the Monkey Shoulder:

  • This whisky is a blend of malts with no age statement.
  • The name Monkey Shoulder comes from an injury that the maltmen (those that hand turn the grain in a malthouse) would get as it would leave one arm hanging.
  • Monkey Shoulder is owned by Williams Grant & Sons along Glenfiddich and Balvenie.

Buffalo Trace

NoseCaramel, cinnamon, baking spice, cereal
PalateCaramel, vanilla, oak, espresso coffee, chocolate
FinishVanilla, baking spice, oak
Alcohol content90 proof (45% ABV)
How to drinkNeat, rocks
Similar toMaker’s Mark, Eagle Rare

Buffalo Trace is one of the best-selling whiskeys in the United States for two good reasons: it delivers a smooth yet tasty taste and is attractively priced delivering good value for the money.

On the nose the Buffalo Trace is very subtle with notes of caramel, vanilla and a touch of baking spice. 

Taste hits the spice a little harder, displays oak and fruit and the underlying sweetness is still there, a little caramel and vanilla goes a long way. Mouthfeel is soft and approachable, light on the heat.

The finish has a decent length, rich in vanilla and baking spice, although flavors don’t sit on the tongue for long but leave a refreshing sensation in the mouth.

The Buffalo Trace is a well-rounded bourbon, making a nice easy sipper with a medium to full body, soft with a chewy feel, fruity and oaky with a medium spicy finish.

Neither intense nor mind-blowing, but it gets the job done delivering a pleasant and satisfying bourbon.

Overall, Buffalo Trace is a good mid-shelf bourbon, a sipper that does not need neither water nor ice. Makes a solid option for an “everyday whiskey” but not the best mixer as it lacks the punch to deliver tasty cocktails.

Use the Sazerac Rye as a whiskey mixer which is pretty much the same bourbon but with added rye spice.

There are a few facts worth knowing about Buffalo Trace:

  • Buffalo Trace is made from corn, rye and malted barley in undisclosed amounts.
  • Buffalo Traces uses a unique aging process of 8 years in which the barrels are stored in the middle floors of the warehouse where temperature fluctuations are the greatest; these variations get reflected in the bourbon creating deeper flavors.
  • 40 barrels at a time are chosen to create one single, small batch of Buffalo Trace.

What’s the difference between Monkey Shoulder and Buffalo Trace?

The Monkey Shoulder is a Scotch and Buffalo Trace a Bourbon

  • Monkey Shoulder is a Scotch Whisky blend made from whiskies crafted at three different distilleries using malted barley as only ingredient.
  • Buffalo Trace is a bourbon whiskey crafted at the Buffalo Trace Distillery using a mash bill comprised of corn, rye and malted barley.

Notice that Monkey Shoulder is a “whisky” and Buffalo Trace a “whiskey” as Americans and the Irish added an “E” in whisky; there is no right form.

Monkey Shoulder vs Buffalo Trace: Price comparison

Prices are approximate and stated in USD:

Monkey Shoulder$37
Buffalo Trace$35

Monkey Shoulder vs Buffalo Trace: Which is better?

Buffalo Trace for sipping, Monkey Shoulder for mixing

WhiskeyMonkey ShoulderBuffalo Trace
  • Buffalo Trace drinks nicely neat, adding a drop of water or over ice making a good sipper.
  • Is not blow you away with any remarkable tasting note but will deliver a solid experience from nose to finish with no let downs.
  • Monkey Shoulder is better suited for cocktails, as it’s peppery notes sit well in Old Fashioneds and High Balls. Not a terrible sipper, but the Buffalo Trace is definitely better.