The story begins in 1951, when retired Wing Commander Montgomery “Monty” Collins of the Royal Air Force opened up a guesthouse in the Northern Black Forest region of Germany. He named it “Zum wilden Affen” [“The Wild Monkey”] in honour of a monkey, Max, he sponsored during the rebuilding of the Berlin Zoo. Collins, a British gentleman, was feeling nostalgic for a good glass of gin. He discovered that Juniper was in abundant supply, together with pure well water and a wide variety of special herbs, he developed his unique Black Forest gin recipe. When the guesthouse was undergoing renovation, a dusty bottle labeled and decorated by hand was found together with a description of the plant ingredients used.
Fast-forward to 2006, Alexander Stein, a descendant from a family of distillers rediscovered the story. “Right from the moment..I was determined to breathe new life into an old recipe. We set out to produce aromas, not alcohol.” Stein together with distiller, Christoph Keller, who was renowned for his fruit brandies, set about the difficult task, as they did not have much information to go on. However they were set on creating the best gin that they could. There are 47 botanical ingredients that have found their way into the Monkey 47 Gin recipe, some of which come from the Black Forest. Amongst them are six different types of pepper, as well as almond, angelica, acacia flower, blackberry, cardamom, chamomile, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cranberries, ginger, Grains of Paradise, hawthorn berries, jasmine, juniper, Kaffir lime, lemongrass, lingonberries, nutmeg, pomelo to name just a few…
All 47 ingredients are then soaked into French made molasses alcohol for 36 hours prior to distillation. Stein and Keller worked together with Arnold Holstein to develop a new one-of-a-kind distillery. Downsizing the still to 100 litres allowed for further optimisation of the ratio of copper to liquid. They still use the combination of macerating some of the botanicals and vapour infusing others, but nowadays they do it a little bit differently. They re-position the steam baskets and hence develop a new distillation apparatus, isolating the right amounts for volatile aromas and bringing them to the forefront to create the perfect blend. Once the distilled spirit has rested for 3 months and before being bottled, they cut to 47% ABV by using soft water from the Black Forest.