By Michael W. Harris
Type: “Schwarzwald” Dry Gin
Botanicals: “47 handpicked ingredients,” which include local cranberries, juniper, citrus, etc. See a complete list on their website in the “Encyclopedia Botanica” section.
Distilling Notes: Gin matures in earthenware containers.
Monkey 47’s Schwarzwald Dry Gin is not available in my local Virginia ABC stores, however, after a friend recommended the spirit to me, I happened upon it at a DC liquor store while hunting for a bottle of Cadenhead Old Raj (more on that in a later post). I only picked up a 375ml bottle, though, as it is a rather expensive gin (around $40 for just that small bottle). Unfortunately, for this post at least, I had already drank around half of the bottle prior to beginning this review series.
This is to say that this review will be slightly truncated for now as I ran out of gin before finishing the full three tasting cycle. However, I feel like I got enough of a taste of Monkey 47 (so-called for its 47 botanical mixture), to make a general recommendation.
Before we get to that, though, I want to mention that Monkey 47 has an interesting “history” on its webpage that is worth reading. As with most of these, who knows how much is myth and how much is real, but it is always fun to check out.
Enough preamble, on to the review!
So Monkey 47 not only has 47 botanicals flavoring it, but it is also bottled at 47% ABV (not sure if that is intentional, or just coincidence), which is to say that the first note on the nose is alcohol. However, once that clears out your sinuses, what lingers is a pleasant fruity and sweet note. While a bit disconcerting at first, I found myself smelling this gin much more than previous entries. The scents were more complex than I had encountered elsewhere, and that trend continued as I tasted it.
I sat down to taste straight Monkey 47 the evening that I typed up my Hendrick’s review (5/31) and was listening to a similarly complex aural compliment: Radiohead. And the taste of Monkey 47 is quite complex. First the alcohol hits, but then you taste the berries and citrus, and finally you get to the really unique part of the gin: the molasses base. Yes, there is a reason that this is not a London Dry Gin. It does not use a neutral grain spirit as its base. It has a molasses based alcohol (not sure how that is made…more research is needed!) and that spirit is then infused/flavored with the
botanicals. It is a very different type of flavor profile, one that is accentuated by the higher ABV and 47 botanicals.
And the complexity really comes out as the alcohol evaporates and the botanicals come to the fore. However, those flavors do not linger on the back end and the alcohol is the dominant force on the finish, meaning that the bite of the booze is what you will most likely taste first and last.
And that really is my issue with Monkey 47. It has some really complex flavors, maybe too complex to really enjoy, but the alcohol content overpowers before you can full appreciate them.
Gin and Tonic
It was while pouring my Gin and Tonic that I realized that I would not make it all the way through my review cycle. Indeed this G’nT review will be flawed as I only had 2 ½ oz. left instead of 3 and I had already poured my 3 oz. of tonic water…and I am NOT about to let good tonic go to waste, not even in the name of SCIENCE!
But I soldiered on with my 5:6 ratio gin and tonic, cued up the first part of Netflix’s Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (6/5) and set about to review.
To my amazement, I was pleasantly surprised, both by the drink AND the anime! It might be the slightly lower gin component, but the overwhelming alcohol taste almost disappeared with the addition of the tonic. The sweet flavors came out, and the citrus notes were complemented by the lime. It almost had a juice like flavor overall. But in the alcohol bite almost disappearing, I somewhat missed the “gin” part of the cocktail as it seemed to be absent in many ways. And, in a twist, the acidic notes of the citrus might just overpower things a bit too much—yes, I am really being picky here!
Again, though, this is all incomplete and based upon an “underginned” cocktail. I will not consider my review definitive until I can try it again.
Monkey 47 is a strange gin, and it is unfortunate that my review is incomplete, so everything I say should have an asterisk next to it. And the fact that I cannot easily obtain this spirit in Virginia makes it unlikely that I will “complete” this review anytime soon.
That being said, I feel comfortable giving Monkey 47 a Middle Shelf ranking. Its price, around $40 for a 375ml bottle, makes it a very expensive gin to begin with. And while its complex flavors make it one to try, I do not feel, however, like it is really worth the money. It was interesting, to be sure, but nothing exciting and nothing to justify the price premium.