The story of Monkey 47 is attributed to an Indian born British Commander who was stationed in Germany after the second world war. Inspired by the Black Forest through the lens of his family’s heritage he combined British influence, Indian botanicals, and the natural flora of the German forest to create a complex gin he called Schwarzwald Dry Gin, along with the note Max the Monkey.
You see, this Commander also helped rebuild the world-famous Berlin zoo, and during the course of this he came to support Max, an egret monkey, who lived in the zoo. So it might seem natural that years after the fact in retirement, he retained an affection for the monkey he sponsored, and when he made his gin, he named it after him.
On botanicals alone, boasting an ostentatious 47, it might be the most complicated gin on the market, but to throw you one more curveball, it’s also built on a base spirit of molasses.
The nose is mentholated juniper, pineapple sage, lemon verbena, lavender, rose, hibiscus and lime. (!) This encyclopedic list merely reflects how incredibly complex and brightly aromatic this gin is.
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Some gins are the perfect examples of their style. Plymouth is the classic example of Plymouth style gin and Schlichte is the classic example of the Steinhäger style. If you’re curious about the style’s baseline, we covered that a short while ago. This review is just about Schlichte.
The first thing I noticed was the beautiful earthenware bottle. It stands out among the other glass bottles in any gin section where it appears. It seems distinctly “old world” and “throwback” just as itself.
I opened, and the first thing I noticed was nearly nothing. No powerful aromas, just a subtle hint of gin. Its just as cool and throwback as the bottle itself. So far Schlichte has given away precious little of itself. I know that its triple distilled based on neutral wheat spirit and juniper berries, with a recipe dating back to the 15th century. But what else? On to tasting: will you reveal your secrets?
Sipping it neat reveals a distinctly different and unique among gin quality. Its remarkably smooth and simple. You taste the juniper and that’s about it. Technically that’s exactly what it should taste like too.
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The name Steinhäger is somewhat special among gin types. Among wines, there are many protected regional names such as Champagne, in which only Champagnes produced in the Champagne region of France can legally be called Champagne. This type of gin is also a European Union Protected Regional Name. Only gins distilled near the city of Steinhagen, Germany can be legally called Steinhäger gins.
This type of gin was relatively popular in the 19th century, but today only two distilleries in this region still make gin. Only one of these distillers makes a gin which is available in the United States.
Location of Steinhagen in Germany, via Google Maps
Flavor Profile of Steinhäger Gins
The ingredients of this style are rather simple: Juniper. Nothing else. The distilled base is made from grains. It has a peculiar almost sweet taste. I’d say it differs strongly from the London Dry typical heavy juniper flavor. While I would say those are a little more “prickly” and “sharp,” the juniper in Steinhäger is somewhat “muted” and “smoother.” Its an interesting parallel. Key to gin drinkers is that there is no citrus. The base is completely neutral.
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