Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin

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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.

Tasting Notes

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. Your mileage might vary. There’s a lot in here, and I’m not sure any experts are going to agree on the exact list you get here on the nose. It’s nicely blended with a lot of hints of clues; rabbit holes of aroma that can be explored only to come up empty with a vague “floral” or “fruity” admission.

As the spirit warms, herbal notes emerge more prominently. Oregano and honeysuckle appear fleetingly, like needles in a haystack being shuffled before your very eyes. A lot going on here, and it’s all quite engaging.

The palate starts with some minty, herbal notes. Herbaceous juniper, blackthorne, lavender and an acute resiny pine note that comes across as more spruce/rosemary. As the taste progresses, we get peppery, vegetal notes, harmoniously entwined as if a single botanical. The finish, we get oily, aromatic herbs with peppermint leaves, lemon balm, blackberry and a faint pepper and green tomato aftertaste.

Fresh and fruity, with a lot of complicated nuance. There’s two levels on which you can enjoy this spirit: firstly, you can just appreciate the way it blends together to create a single powerful presence. Secondly, you can sit down as if to study it and probe the way this myriad of botanicals unravel on your palate. I think it’s rewarding for both kinds of drinkers, and it gets high marks in my book for the complexity and balance.

Scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma). Photo by Jerry Drown, Univesity of Tennessee Herbarium.

The first thing that caught my eye was Scarlet Beebalm. I know it as an ornamental plant from gardens [and it attracts butterflies and hummingbirgs by the way]. The Oswego peoples of upstate New York taught Europeans a couple of uses for the plant. Resin from the plant is a natural soothing agent, often used for bee stings and the like. A tea can also be made from the plants leaves. For those of you curious about what it tastes like, it’s worth nothing that it’s also called bergamont by gardeners because its aroma is similar to that of the orange [and other common gin botanical] of the same name.

Roberta F. 27. svibnja 2008.

The Dog Rose is another flower [but this time, native to Europe] that was used as a tea. The plant has a high level of vitamin C and found its way into jams, jellies and syrups, especially during times of conflict. Bulgarian peoples have used the hips of the Dog Rose to make wine; it’s an important flavoring addition to the European soda Cockta. The wild, climbing, vine is incredibly hardy, persisting in the United, growing in road side ditches, long after gardeners have abandoned the plant. In short, although the name “Dog” rose implied that some peoples found the plant worthless, its importance in several food cultures tells a story that’s otherwise. And here it is, in this German gin as well.


Mixed with Hansen’s Tonic in a Gin and Tonic, sweet pomelo at first with exotic herb garden notes on the after taste. Lemon verbena, lavender, garden mint, lead into a citrus-dominated finish with grapefruit and lemon zest. Quite nice.

Second, we mixed it with an Elderflower Lemonade. This was a pre-bottled, carbonated soda. Rose and Elderflower came on strong at first, with lemon dominating the mids. The gin shone in the lower noes as lavender, rosemary, sweet orange and birch came through. It was a tough task, the lemonade remained the star, but overall, the gin offered enough to decide this mixed drink was not without merit.

The Gimlet featured plenty of lime, but underneath: blackberry pie, strawberries, and other plump berry like notes jumped to the fore as well. Pungent and surprisingly fruity, this was a really interesting drink that showcased Monkey 47 in an unexpected way.

The Negroni was nice as well, with herbal, spice notes at first, setting the stage for an unctuous, fruity finish. Nice, though not as complex as I might have hoped.

Finally, we put together a Martini. Rosemary, coriander, mint, orange, lemon verbena, wormwood, up top, but with spruce tips and resiny juniper only barely poking through. To levy the criticism only here might not be fair, but there is precious little that comes out as juniper here. It’s quite nice, with a good flavor, but perhaps lacking in some key areas.

Overall, Monkey 47 Gin

Let’s get it out of the way. The critique that can be fairly made of this gin is that it might be too contemporary and note enough juniper happening. I’ll grant you that; however, as for fans of contemporary style gins will likely find a new best friend here. Fantastic on its own, its mixes quite well, with a unique and powerful aromatic presence and thick, rich, mouthfeel. Yes, the price is rather steep, coming in at close to $100 for a standard 750mL equivalent; however, as a rare treat I highly recommend this gin, though at this price point I might be slightly more hesitant to recommend it if you’re going to be using it exclusively in heavy handed cocktails.


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20 thoughts on “Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin”

  1. I never liked gin. But a couple years ago, I had a straight shot of a local product, “Green Hat.” A near-psychedelic experience of being conveyed into woodlands, open fields, down the long tables of a greenhouse. Ever since, above all, that’s what I look for in a gin: Tell me a story… take me on a journey. And I haven’t met any gin that does that better than Monkey 47. It’s almost some kind of heady liqueur…weighty in the mouth…densely sensual. I’ll spend $12-$14 on a cocktail out–and somehow, it’s never as good as the Monkey, over a cube of ice. So I don’t begrudge the price (…$38 at one D.C. store). Just love it!

  2. An unusual gin. Complicated, unique. Hard to compare to anything else i have consumed with tonic. Definitely a modern gin as opposed to a traditional juniper-heavy offering. Too expensive for me to justify as a staple gin, hence four vs. five stars, but as a special occasion option, wonderful.

  3. Monkey 47 is one of my favorite gins, I have been drinking it with grapefruit juice, a little rosemary simple syrup and Crude Bitters Rizzo blend. Since it’s hard to find I typically only have it as a treat but it is superb

  4. Hi, Aaron. I’m glad that you mentioned the price. I’ve looked at this gin, read about this gin ( and your coverage was a necessary addition, and quite entertaining ), but have never been persuaded to pay a price which, frankly, makes my eyes cross. I suspect that at some point I will be convinced to reward myself, maybe on some very special occasion or life threshold. Maybe the additional information on the sheer complexity and abundance of the botanicals, and the generosity of its creator toward a kindred primate will persuade me that this is a worthy indulgence.

  5. Excellent, balanced piece (Monkey 47 is something of a phenomenon both sides of the Atlantic) – but have you broken all of the crystal-ware again? – resorted to jam jars? 😉

  6. Its expensive but worth it, best served over a cube of ice, you save the cash for tonic, lime and so on!

  7. In Europe this is one of the hottest gins around at premium bars. Price here is ~€30 per 50cl bottle. I love it dearly and it can be mixed in a wide variety. It has a very strong and distinct taste. A very powerful gin. I also strongly recommend Monkey 47 Sloe Gin.

  8. Priced at ~30-35€ a bottle. Not to much for a great gin, comparing to the alternatives. Can’t compare it pricewise with €10-15 gin, it’s worth the price

  9. This is an exceptional gin with strong complex flavors that are extremely well blended. The bottle itself is a piece of art, everything about this production is refined and elaborate, their web site is also incredible, all this makes it a world apart, for the happy few, well educated, well trained in the art of living… If you talk about the price of this bottle, you probably are not hedonist enough to deserve a sip of that elixir!

  10. I simply think that there’s plenty of other gins as good at this one that don’t command such an exceptional price. Process wise, Monkey 47’s still size is what many small scale craft producers are working on. Sipsmith has been known to use multiple distillation techniques of the same plant material, their botanical number isn’t even that unusual— with several others in the 30+ space. Really the only thing unusual is the ultra-ultra-premium price point. It’s a good gin as I point out, but gin isn’t like whisky in that price is often correlated with process, i.e. time in the barrel.

  11. This gin is the “Glock of gins” (if you’re into firearms, you’ll understand). Like the Glock pistol, there is a seeming cult of afficionados that are loyalists until the day they die. And the other side of the coin are people who just don’t get it, or think it’s overrated. I have tried many gins since I became obsessed with gin, and I like both the contemporary gins and the Classic gins. This gin is like no other. I absolutely love it, as a liquor though and not as a gin—because you hardly think of gin when you are tasting it. Does that matter though? If it’s delicious and intriguing, who cares what it’s labeled as? For some reason, every time I drink it (very seldom, given its price), it reminds me of Squirt pop…there is a fizz (real or imagined), and the taste of grapefruit, citrus, herbals…all rolled up together.
    It really is a fantastic drink, imbibed alone with no adulterants….chilled in the freezer (the bottle is certainly small enough).

  12. I enjoyed Monkey 47, to a point.
    Monkey 47 reminded me of a mixture of Bombay Sapphire and Ransom Old Tom gins: It’s definitely gin, but the flavors are unique, and not perfectly balanced– honestly, the flavors are too complex for my tastes. Than’t not saying I don’t have a sophisticated palate. but when you’re talking about 47 separate flavors in one beverage, it’s a bit overwhelming for just about anyone. It’s almost as if they set the goal of including 47 botanicals up front, and once they hit about 20 they just started throwing stuff into the pot, whether it helped the flavor profile or not.
    I didn’t have any problem finishing the bottle, but neither will I go out and buy another (especially at the price point).

  13. David, loved your Glock comparison. 😉

    Lots of great comments here, thanks all, for taking the trouble.

    So I’ll just offer a very personal view. For the past four or five years, I’ve been trying the many new gins coming on the market, at various price levels. It’s been a very fun and interesting experience to try to get an education in gin, which I hadn’t studied much before, being mainly a single malt scotch and bourbon fan. But at this point I estimate I’ve tried maybe 70 or so gins, including old standbys as well as contemporary craft gins.

    Which this is definitely not. As a whisky drinker, I find it quite complex, very floral, and almost perfumy on the nose and palate. It is truly an elegant and certainly a connoisseur’s gin. There’s so much going on that I have trouble pulling out the individual essences, and I’m considered to have a pretty discerning palate.

    Which brings me to my point. I’m the sort of whisky drinker who is willing to sacrifice elegance and refinement for character and power and intensity. If I want that I’ll drink cognac. Not that great scotch and bourbon can’t be that, the best ones certainly can, But I’m really looking for something that’ll knock my socks off that could be pretty simple and not that complicated.

    And that’s what I’m really looking for in a gin. This gin is certainly beautiful; it’s really the cognac of gins. But I’m looking more for something like Tanqueray, which gets by on just four botanicals (as far as we know). Or even The Botanist from Islay, with 22 different ingredients. But there’s just not enough juniper in this for me.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that this is too sophisticated a gin for my primitive palate. 😉 But I like it nevertheless as it represents a rarified standard (and with a rarified price) that most gins don’t approach.

  14. Mash a ridiculous number of “botanicals” together, pour into a unique bottle and smack a cool label on it. Name it after an exotic animal and sell it for $50 a bottle.

    There is a sucker born every minute. This is not really gin at all but a weird tasting floral aquavit.

    Hard pass.

  15. I think the folks who put together Monkey 47 were trying too hard. Like they set out to break the record for the most botanicals in a gin, even if most of those botanicals added nothing positive to the experience.

    There are fantastic gins on the market that use between 4 and 10 botanicals, so why would Monkey 47 use almost 50? I suppose I would have forgiven them if the result had been amazing, but it wasn’t; it was just okay, and honestly a little weird. I tried it neat and in a variety of cocktails, but nothing really worked.

    It not saying it was horrible, but paying $75 for a bottle I didn’t really enjoy was a real bummer.

  16. I have to agree with those who say it tastes like the creators of Monkey were trying too hard, and in so doing they went to far.
    @Eric and @Amy: That. Exactly.

    @David: I like your Glock comparison. You love Glocks; I find they don’t fit comfortably in my hand. You love Monkey 47; I find it doesn’t fit comfortably on my palate. And it’s totally OK for some to think Monkey 47 is awesome, and for others to think it’s just meh — To each his own.

  17. I finally tried it after trying a dozen or more 3, 4, and 5 star rated gins listed on this site and found it is easily the worst gin i have tasted. Will never purchase again.

  18. Oh my god! This gin is almost too good! It makes my want to sip and sip and sip some more! I have never found a better gin and I would be shock if there was anything better!