Monkey 47 isn't the first gin to be distilled in the Black Forest.
Proprietor Alexander Stein was inspired by the story of Montgomery Collins, Englishman and former RAF Wing Commander, who distilled spirits from the area's botanicals in the mid-1950s.
Stein reached out to master distiller Christoph Keller, who'd been making eau de vie under his own label for decades, to collaborate on a modern Black Forest take on the classic British spirit.
The result is an easy-to-drink gin with a fresh, peppery and citrusy taste that's gotten quite popular with bartenders and has finally made it to the US market.
The pair stopped by the Tasting Table offices to talk about what makes their gin unique and why we should start paying more attention to the modern stylings of this very historic drink.
Tasting Table: Why make another gin?
Keller: When we started we said we wanted to do something produced like an eau de vie, from fruit or from herbs, so you could actually drink it pure. Gin used to be something that was just produced industrially. It wasn't about flavors.
TT: How did you go about developing the recipe?
Stein: We're Germans, obviously. We need analytical stuff, Excel spreadsheets and plans. It was a little like we were building a car. We had all of the ingredients and we decided what fits with what. We analyzed together that there were more than 120 different botanicals used in gins around the planet, so we ordered them all. Then we did 130 test distillations. It was really learning by trial and error.
TT: What sort of flavor profile were you looking for?
Keller: We wanted to have a mouth full of peppers and the rest is more on the nose. We wanted the fresh citrus notes. There's a lot of lavender, a really classic ingredient, and we also have other blossoms like acacia. A bit of jasmine and elderberry flowers. Our secret weapon is the lingonberry, a kind of cranberry that's home is in the Black Forest.
TT: And why use molasses alcohol?
Keller: You'd think neutral alcohol is neutral alcohol. But because molasses alcohol is a sweet, raw material, it has an easier time adopting sweet flavors. If you make it with a grain spirit you always have bready notes, but that's not what we wanted. That's the old way of gin. The modern way is sweeter and more refreshing.
TT: How'd you come up with 47 ingredients?
Stein: Of the 47 botanicals, 70 percent are really significant and 30 percent add complexity. And this way it can't easily be copied.
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