Monkey 47 is a gin with a story like no other, inspired by a British WWII Wing Commander and made in the Black Forest region of Germany, it features (you guessed it) 47 botanicals!
Price: ~ £36 (50cl)
There are 47 of them!
See below for as many as I can find!
The great and horrifying thing about Monkey 47 is the sheer amount of information available. It’s great because you can find (pretty much) all you need to know and more from the folks behind the gin themselves. The website is awesomely stylised as an old-fashioned newspaper called The Monkey Drum, and is full of information about the gin, botanicals, cocktails, bars, and most importantly a distillers blog that goes all the way back to an introduction post in 2015. The horrifying thing is, from my point of view, how I give you a blurb about the gin without having to spend hours on it! If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I like to focus on the liquid!
Monkey 47 in many ways has two personalities. The first is Montgomery ‘Monty’ Collins, a British Wing Commander in the RAF who was posted to Berlin and after the war helped re-build Berlin Zoo, where he sponsored an egret monkey named Max. Monty ended up moving to the Black Forest region and opened a guesthouse which he named “Zum wilden Affen” or “The Wild Monkey”. From here, he used local ingredients to create that most British of libations: gin. Soon after, tales of Monty trail off, but apparently, during renovation work at a country guesthouse at the turn of the century, an old wooden box was discovered containing a hand-labelled bottle with the sketch of a monkey that read “Max the Monkey – Schwarzwald Dry Gin”. With the bottle was a letter containing personal notes, photographs, and vitally a detailed description of the plant ingredients Montgomery had used in his recipe. The new gin that came from this, Monkey 47, is very much built around this story, and Monty himself.
The second personality is of course that of Alexander Stein and Christoph Keller, the pair behind the gin we know today. Alexander heard the stories and wanted to make a gin from the Black Forest, and after some persuading he contacted master schnapps distiller Christoph. The rest is history, as they say, but if you want to know more, you can learn all about them on their distillers blog.
Finally, as promised above, here are all the botanicals I’ve managed to find that go into Monkey 47. I’ve added ‘various types of pepper’ at the end as I understand there to be 6, but I am not sure whether that number is meant to include Cubeb and Grains of Paradise. I am confident if does however include Black pepper, and at a guess (there are only so many peppers after all!) Pink also.
|Angelica root||Acacia flower||Acorus calamus|
|Bitter orange||Blackberry||Bramble leaf||Cardamom||Cassia||Chamomile|
|Ginger||Grains of paradise||Hawthorn berry||Hibiscus syriacus||Honeysuckle||Jasmine|
|Lavender||Lemon||Lemon balm||Lemon |
|Liquorice||Makrut lime leaf||Monarda Didyma|
(Bee balm or
|Musk seed (Ambrette)||Nutmeg||Orris|
|Various types of pepper|
The bottle is a dark antique brown glass in the old, round apothecary style. It has a simple cork stopper with a lovely little metallic ring on which, in tiny letters is engraved ‘Ex Pluribus Unum’ which translates to ‘From many, one’, summing up the gin nicely. The key though, and what makes the gin so recognisable, is the label which is designed like a stamp. The name of the gin, volume, and ABV sit at the top, above a regal design with crown and scroll illustrations encircling a monkey holding a branch of something (no idea what!) and in tiny script, what appear to be the words ‘Race but Live’, which sadly I can’t find anything about! Finally at the bottom it is described as ‘Schwarzwald Dry Gin’ On the back is a small square label with a little blurb about the gin, mentioning Montgomery Collins, the name behind the gin. It also gives the bottling date, batch number, and bottle number. It’s instantly recognisable and really cool in a simple way.
As you might expect, there is quite a lot to this gin! For me the juniper has a good bright punch, and there are lots of lightly spiced floral notes, with a backbone of citrus running through. It’s light and fresh, with leafy greens and hazy tones I’d say are primarily from the likes of chamomile and elderflower. There’s lots of lemon, and I get herbal suggestions from the sage too. It’s a lovely, incredibly complex aroma that promises great rewards for those who are willing to take the time. The problem is it smells so good it also begs to be tasted!
Neat there’s an enormous hit of juniper that’s almost enough to take the breath away. For me it’s got a lot of body to it, with the darker fruits coming through much more than expected. It’s much more rich and deep in flavour than the aroma suggests, so while there are loads of bright notes, I’d say it was quite heavy in a way. Not in terms of being weighed down by anything, but more in the sense of density. It’s an ocean of flavour, and it goes down a long way! However in that sense too it is almost overpowering when sipped neat. There are strong bitter notes with hints of menthol, and most definitely a peppery kick, but there are also soft herbals and bright citrus. For me the florals are lost a little here, but there’s still a lot to enjoy! It’s an experience for sure!
Water brings about a true revelation. With about 50:50 water to gin, the mouthfeel is genuinely incredible giving new meaning to the word ‘smooth’. The flavours also benefit, with lots of soft herbs and spice leading me down a forest path to some warming citrus flavours and aromatic spice. This is still all very much under a sky of juniper though, with blue pine and dry, slightly woody notes. I could drink it like this for days, it’s absolutely incredible.
Finally, a G&T (3:1 Tonica Superfine Tassoni with a slice of orange to garnish). The result is astounding and as you would expect, bursting with flavour. There are plenty of sweet citrus and floral notes that perfectly balance the dry quinine of the tonic (though I know that this tonic in particular is fairly sweet overall), while allowing some of the herbal and even slightly earthy flavours to join in. The spices are subtle but flavoursome, with lots of warmth, though it’s lost the pepper for me. Towards the end, some slightly bitter, sour notes come through which is a very pleasing development, and adds to the freshness of the flavour. Overall this is a G&T that goes down very easy, and brings plenty with every sip.
Monkey 47 is a firm favourite amongst gin drinkers and it’s easy to see why. It’s bold, complex, and importantly very, very drinkable. Of course it’s not possible to identify every different botanical in the mix, and one could easily ponder on the process that ended with quite so many making the final recipe, but in my opinion that way madness lies. So while it’s impossible to even come close to picking it apart, it most definitely gives the sense that everything present does play a role. There is just so much depth and complexity here that you could return to it a dozen times and find little differences to please the taste buds. It is on the expensive side though, so this isn’t exactly a house gin, but it’s a hugely rewarding gin and an absolute must try.
Monkey 47 is available in shops and online
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.