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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Terroir, the notion that place imbues the plants grown in a certain place with a unique character; or rather the idea that the climate that a plant experiences, the conditions of the soil, the time of the year, the sun, so and so forth, can alter that character of that which you grow in a certain place is backed up by innumerable chemistry journal articles which analyze the essential oil characteristics of such gin staples as angelica, juniper and coriander. For this piece we’ll call this terroir type I.
But a further more obvious aspect of terroir is often at play in gins such as Vor. What grows around you natively is perhaps the most readily identifiable aspect of a place’s regional food culture. The same soil conditions that can cause juniper to contain different quantities of linalool also dictates why crowberry or a kind of moss grows in Iceland and nowhere else. And why you might not be able to grow Tapioca in a northern clime, or banana. For this piece we’ll call this terroir type II.
Vor gin is a gin which uses both affects to delirious effect. And it’s far from just a gimmick: the combination of the two creates a gin which is wholly like anything else out there.
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Lucky Bastard Distillers’ combine a pin-up girl aesthetic with puns about “wood” [wood, as in what’s its aged in!] for all of their barrel aged spirits. But they’re not just about the bawdy jokes. Acute attention to detail and local character set their spirits apart and give them a distinctly “Saskatchewan” character. Their spirits are small batch, the ingredients are local and organic. The spirits have appreciable depth of character. Their aged gin uses their contemporary Gambit Gin as a base spirit [which features Saskatoon Berries, more on that in a moment], and then rest it in oak.
Saskatoon Berries? In the states, these small, blueberry shaped berries are known as “Juneberries,” and even before that they were known as Pigeon berries. Often a feature of prairie underbrush, these small (<20 ft tall) bushes grow across the prairies of the Northern United States and along the Rockies all the way through the Yukon up into Alaska. These small “wild” tasting fruits weren’t able to be grown commercially until only a few years ago. Demand is high, in part due to their prominence in local heritage cuisine such as Pemmican, jams, and even beers, but also due to their positioning by growers as the latest “superfruit.” Watch out pomegranate and acai!
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