Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin Review
An elite sipping gin, elite but with limitations.
Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin review
Made in: Lossberg, Germany, by Black Forest Distillers
Method: vapor distillation with a Carter-Head column still.
47% alcohol/94 proof
Botanicals 47 : Juniper, Almonds, mint, allspice, elderberry, English Hawthorn, Pomelo, orange, blackberry, clove, licorice, sage, acacia flower, ginger, jasmine, rose hip, lemon verbena, camomile, angelica, nutmeg, musk mallow, lavender, coriander, grains of paradise, Scarlet Monarda, Marshmallow, spruce shoots, black pepper, cardamom, cassia, Cinnamon, cranberry, cubeb peppers, honeysuckle, lemon, lemongrass, lime leaves, orris, cranberry, lingonberry, pimento, ambrette, bee balm, dog rose, lemon balm, blackthorn (sloe), sweet flag
Style: Modern gin.
The story of the Monkey is a huge part of the “legend” of this gin. How much is real, how much is fiction, I can’t honestly say. But it makes for a pretty good backstory for this gin. It’s the story of a man named Montgomery Collins who was the child of a diplomat and traveled to exotic places before joining the British air force, and having his own adventures. Eventually he settled in the Black Forest of Germany, took over the WIld Monkey Inn, and learned the art of local distilling. And even producing his own signature gin - which became the trademark of his own inn. It’s a story of travel, adventure, and exotic experiences. Which eventually inspired this gin from Germany’s Black Forest.
When the Germans’ take time to make a good product, you know there are two things that are almost always true about it. The quality is usually excellent, and the price is going to reflect it - usually rightfully so. At about $70-80 for a 750ml bottle this is one of the more expensive gins currently available in the US.
This is certainly one of the most complex gins in the world - as the 47 in the name refers to the number of botanicals in the gin. Now considering that most gins are made with 12 or less, that’s a hugely unusual number. You can probably spend close to 24 hours on their website, maybe even more, discovering just how they came to this formula, how they chose their botanicals, and how they managed to meld this all into one of the most notable gins to come out of Germany.
Brutally honest opinion, this gin is outstanding on the rocks. It’s good neat too, but better on the rocks. This is a high quality sipping gin with layers of flavor.
Those layers don’t end with flavor, they are in the nose too. And that makes this very, very, complex, and confounding too. There is just so much here that it’s most impossible to focus on any one, or even two or three flavors at a given moment. There are strong floral notes, deep layers of spice and plenty of fruit. Lavender, chamomile, lemon verbena, cardamom, and mint are in the front with ginger and lemongrass deeper in the nose. That said - I’d expect no two people to come up with the same description, of either the scent, or taste of this gin.
There is no defining flavor of this gin. I can’t say it’s citrus forward, or juniper forward, it’s far too complex for that. I taste mint, blackberry, lemon, tea, anise, black pepper, cranberry, ginger, coriander, orange, allspice, cinnamon, cranberry and so much more. So much that with each sip I found something new. It’s just about impossible to categorize the flavors. But I will note that juniper is one of the least defining flavors of this gin, and that could be a problem for serious gin drinkers.
On the palate the gin is cool, slightly dry and has a cornstarchy type of silkiness.
I can’t say I find this a very mixable gin. It’s amazing on the rocks, but this gin is so complex that mixing it is very hard - almost anything you do to it washes out so many layers of flavor. It’s perfectly serviceable for cocktails, but it’s not a gin I’d choose to ruin by mixing it with anything but the most clean type of drinks.
This didn’t handle a standard martini all that well. It was fine, but not special. BUT the less vermouth added the better this was, every drop extra of vermouth robbed this more and more flavor. But as a very dry martini it was pretty good. Just don’t ask me to identify what flavors I could taste in it - there are just too many.
In a gin and tonic this one is hard. This one calls for the lightest, least flavored tonic water you can find. I tried it with two different tonics and found that flavor profile for the tonic just buried the essence of the Monkey - and in that case I’d opt for a cheaper gin to mix with.
In trying to find a cocktail for this one I turned to Monkey’s own website trying to find something that would not wash out his gin. I chose the Bijou Cocktail to try with a 1:1:1 ratio of Monkey 47, green chartreuse, and sweet vermouth, plus a dash of Orange bitters. While it was a good drink, and the Monkey 47 was good with it - I don’t think it was distinguishable from many other, less expensive gins.
This is probably one of the better sipping gins available at this time. On the rocks it’s absolutely lovely, but the truth is that this gin is not a great mixing gin, because of the delicate levels of flavors - and their intricacies. They just get washed out by anything more complex than soda water, or ice.
For mixing you are better off looking elsewhere as you’ll find good mixing gins for less than half the price.
Rating (Sipping): 94 - An elite sipping gin.
Rating (Mixing) 79 - While it's fine for mixing, Monkey 47 loses those incredible delicate layers of flavoring as you add more components. While it still makes fine cocktails, it's too high priced to be a great mixer.
Overall rating: 85. I'll keep this on my shelf for sipping, but that its strong point.
What you need to know about reviews: All my reviews are my honest opinions based upon my own personal tasting. I am NOT a paid reviewer, and no compensation was given, or expected. I may from time to time choose to do a second review and amend my opinion of a product, should I feel like it and find my review criteria has evolved, or that I’ve found it different at a later date. That said, as I’m unlikely to repurchase anything I thought was less than very good to excellent, it would be by chance or at the request of a distiller who thought I rated them very unfairly - BUT even then, whatever you get will always be my honest opinion.