We’ve had a lot of alcohol while writing for this site — almost 300 reviews of spirits over abut three years. So I figured it was time to give our livers a break and try something non-alcoholic for a change. In that spirit (pun not intended), today we’re going to look at a bottle of “whiskey” that you can buy on Amazon: the Monday Zero Alcohol Whiskey.
The idea for this line of non-alcoholic spirits reportedly started on a Sunday. Co-founder Chris Boyd was out celebrating his birthday with some friends at a bar, sipping some delicious gin, when halfway through the night he switched to water. Asked about the decidedly non-celebratory shift in his drink selection, Chris reportedly replied “because tomorrow is Monday and I have sh!t to do, and I want to do that sh!t well”. That night sparked the idea to create a line of delicious but non-alcoholic spirits that could be enjoyed all night Sunday without impacting Monday morning, and together with his friend Ben Acott they set out to make their dream a reality.
The pair started with creating a non-alcoholic gin, working with local distillers in Los Angeles to try and come up with just the right concoction. Once they had the alchemy perfected, they launched a Kickstarter campaign in October 2019 to fund their initial production run. Two years later, they are now starting to expand their product line to include a whiskey.
There is next to no information about what is inside this bottle. I reached out to the team behind Monday to try and find out, but the response I got was essentially “we aren’t comfortable releasing that information”. So we’re going to have to go off what’s on the label.
As this isn’t an alcoholic product, it has to comply with the usual FDA labeling requirements. Which means all of the ingredients are listed on the label. In this case, what we see is pretty much water, with some citric acid and other flavoring components.
For their other product, a similarly non-alcoholic gin, I could see distillation being a useful step. The oils and compounds in the aromatic components would be better expressed and captured that way. But with a whiskey, there really is no reason for distillation other than getting an alcoholic mixture. So my bet is that, despite this claiming to have been made at a distillery, I don’t think it was actually distilled. I think this is just flavored water.
However it is produced, the liquid is pumped into oak barrels to age for an undisclosed period of time, just like with a whiskey. Once it has matured, the liquid is bottled and shipped.
The bottle itself here isn’t really remarkable. It’s a standard design for small distilleries: a short fat base, straight walls, a quick shoulder and a short neck, all capped off with a wood and cork stopper. That’s not to say it’s a bad design — I like it quite a lot. It’s just not unique.
What is somewhat unique is the label. It takes up pretty much all the real estate on the bottle’s surface with this black background and shiny metallic lettering, stating the brand information with a stylish art deco flourish. That would make sense, since prohibition meant that legal alcohol sales were forbidden in the United States while the art deco style was in vogue, so this would be as close as someone could legally get to a bottle of whiskey back then. It also just looks cool.
At first glance, this doesn’t look too far off from a standard whiskey. The liquid is roughly the right color, if perhaps a touch darker than usual. It’s more of a black tea than the usual golden brown we see, but close enough.
Taking a sniff, though, it definitely doesn’t smell like what I was expecting. It smells very sweet, like warm caramel and baking spices with strong hints of cinnamon. That sweetness is very strange, given that this claims to be a sugar free product.
It’s when you take a sip that it becomes really clear that this is not, in fact, a whiskey. It has nowhere near the weight and mouthfeel that you’d expect from a whiskey, feeling much closer to just taking a sip of water. As for the flavor, that’s not exactly on point either — up front, I almost get a little bit of lemon or citrus, followed by warm toffee and cinnamon that provides a nice rich base. That flavor continues as a bit of burn starts to appear and spread, something that feels very similar to how the spice from jalapeno peppers start and develop.
That burn, plus the darker flavors, persist through the finish and linger for a while after the liquid is gone.
With a traditional whiskey, adding some ice tends to knock out the more delicate flavors and tone down the more strident aspects. But this isn’t a traditional whiskey, so I really didn’t know what I should expect here.
I almost wish I hadn’t found out.
The flavor profile is strange — not terrible — when taken neat. But the second you add the ice, things seem to fall apart. The bolder flavors are significantly diminished and in their place is some citrus fruit, and specifically the bitter bite that comes with it. The flavor profile never really gets as dark or as rich as before, with the cinnamon and toffee flavors turning into something that’s closer to a brewed coffee with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. And a jalapeno pepper dropped in for good measure.
Even with the dilution, though, that burn is still present… and in this context, it’s strange. I can understand this being a favorable thing when taken neat, but here it’s more distracting. And there doesn’t seem to be a way to tone it down, unfortunately.
The combination is just off-putting to me. It isn’t something I would voluntarily ask for, with strange flavor combinations and an annoyingly unnecessary spicy burn.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
Despite the poor performance on ice, I was hopeful here. Cocktails seem to be the scenario this was engineered specifically for. But, sadly, this just gets worse and worse.
What you’re looking for in an old fashioned is a balance of flavors: the darker aspects of the whiskey balancing out the floral components of the bitters and adding some complexity to the flavor profile. Instead, what you get here is a cacophony of noises without any real organization. And at the end, all I get is the same lingering spicy feeling in my mouth that I get after eating particularly spicy tacos, which isn’t necessarily pleasant.
The old fashioned may have been a bit of a trainwreck, but to their credit, this actually isn’t that bad. This almost has me optimistic about alcohol-free cocktails again.
Up front, the darker notes from that coffee and cinnamon flavor does a nice job balancing out the bright ginger beer to make something that has a bit of depth and complexity. And that complexity lasts through the cocktail bringing something interesting to the table that you don’t get with a vodka.
The biggest component however might be that spicy note at the end. Personally, I like a jalapeno-assisted Kentucky mule, so that spicy note at the end was appreciated and lasted just long enough to be interesting, but for those who don’t like that sort of thing… well, you’re going to be in for a pretty unhappy time.
I love the concept here. The idea of having a zero alcohol whiskey that you can enjoy anytime is very appealing. Enjoying the artistry of cocktails and the flavor profiles that they create without the negative consequences of the alcohol would be a great thing to have — if only we can actually get the right flavor profile.
This doesn’t taste like a whiskey. This tastes like a Frappuccino with a jalapeno pepper blended in. It’s close, and does have some of the darker aspects you’d want to see in a whiskey, but it doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head for me. And the secrecy about the provenance and contents of the bottle just makes me instantly distrust what I’m drinking.
|Monday Zero Alcohol Whiskey|
Produced By: MondayProduction Location: California, United States
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Price: $44.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
Something worth playing with in cocktails, but only if you truly enjoy Tabasco.