Narrator: Following centuries of changing tastes and dynamic transformation, a new and fascinating chapter has been added to the history of Gin.
The great British tradition of London Dry Gin is united with the exoticism of India and the raw unspoiled nature of the Black Forest.
Our story begins in the 1950s. Following his childhood as the son of a diplomat in Madras and a career in the British Air Force, love draws Wing Commander Montgomery Collins to an isolated valley in the Black Forest where he takes over the Wild Monkey Guest House. Here, he becomes acquainted with the great Black Forest tradition of distilling fruit. And out of a longing for his own British passions, develops a special Gin, which becomes the trademark of the Wild Monkey right through to the 1970s.
Four decades later, this historical episode was to fundamentally change the life of Alexander Stein, who himself descends from a family of Swabian distillers.
Alexander Stein: When I heard about this special Gin that contains not only the classical Gin spices but also original Black Forest ingredients such as spruce shoots and lingonberries. I left my job, I did some research, and I read some eyewitness accounts from the time, all with the aim of bringing this Gin back to life.
Narrator: A Gin from Germany? And what's more, from the Black Forest which has always been known more for its fruit Brandies and cuckoo clocks than for Britain's national drink? Well actually, it's not as strange as it might seem. In the strictest sense, a Gin is a combination of spirits distilled from herbs and fruits. And nowhere else in the world will you find the wealth of distilling expertise and centuries of experience that there is in Southern Germany.
This is where the world's most renowned distillers work and where traditional coppersmiths build the best distilleries. Access to fresh ingredients of the highest quality is virtually unlimited. And the Black Forest water source from deep sandstone springs is one of the softest and mildest and waters in Europe. So, it seems perfectly logical since the prerequisites for a premium Gin from the Black Forest were already in place.
Alexander: So, I went about looking for a master distiller who would be able to put this idea into practice. One day, I read a newspaper article about a moody looking chap with a full beard by the name of Christoph Keller, one of the world's finest distillers, who produces truly legendary fruit Brandies.
Christoph Keller: We got on well right from the start. This guy was mad in a positive sense, creative and passionate about his work. The task of breathing new life into this historic Gin was a great and truly fascinating challenge.
Narrator: So, the idea was born, a plan drawn up, and the Black Forest distillers had forged their partnership. Montgomery Collins Black Forest Dry Gin was to be reborn, a master quality Gin with floral notes, the freshness of tangy citrus fruits, a clear juniper tone, a peppery spicy mouthfeel and a subtle hit of cranberries to give it that certain "je ne sais quoi." Produced exclusively by hand using traditional distilling methods and 100% fresh plant ingredients and married with the soft water of the Black Forest.
Alexander: There was just one catch. There were only rudimentary written records. No original recipe from Montgomery Collins, just the descriptions and stories told by eyewitnesses and a few key facts, such as the use of spruce shoots, classical Gin ingredients, and lingonberries. Basically, we had to start from scratch. And after two years of development, we chose the one recipe that we thought embodied the ideal Gin, a classic Dry Gin interpreted in an entirely new and eccentric way, the Gin that we've always wished for.
Narrator: The name says it all. Exactly 47 different plant ingredients have found their way into the Monkey 47 recipe. A recipe that is naturally a carefully guarded secret, known only to Alexander Stein and his distiller Christoph Keller. The selection and quality of the raw ingredients is of crucial importance.
Christoph: We use juniper berries from the Mediterranean, which receive four to six weeks more sun and are, therefore, simply more aromatic than our homegrown junipers. Nevertheless, many of the ingredients, such as the acacia flowers, the spruce shoots, bramble leaves, angelica root, and of course the lingonberries are actually sourced directly from the Black Forest.
Alexander: The lingonberry is what gives the Gin its really distinguishing flavor. All the basic Gin flavors, refreshing acidity, lasting bitter notes and a slight sweetness already exist explicitly in the cranberry fruit, so it's a perfect combination and not just a marketing stunt.
Narrator: The exotic ingredients, including six different types of pepper, are sourced in certified organic quality and monitored continuously. For this purpose, the former pigsty is now used for storing drugs with samples and specimens that can be constantly compared. In keeping with classic British tradition, the freshly ground ingredients are placed in warm French molasses alcohol and macerated for 36 hours, or one day and two nights. Individual ingredients, such as the peel from bitter oranges, lemons, and pomelos, must be added fresh to the macerate prior to distillation, requiring the helping hands of hard-working locals from 7 o'clock every morning. Then, the ancient alchemy of distillation simply takes its course.
Christoph: Together with coppersmith Arnold Holstein, we created a distillery that was developed especially for this Gin. In addition to the classical techniques of maceration and distillation, we also applied the principle of or percolation, or steam extraction, whereby the alcohol vapors go through the process of extraction via fresh plant materials, thus enabling us to focus on isolating just the right amounts of rather volatile flavors and carefully combining them to produce the perfect blend.
Narrator: Using this proven traditional approach, a molecular aroma architecture is created, which produces a harmonious taste that's as complex as it is captivating. All this, however, requires a great deal of time and effort. Alexander: We take extreme care when distilling, using the least possible pressure, very gradually rising temperatures, and only moderate cooling. This is incredibly time-consuming, but it ensures that the fragile, light-flowery aroma components, in particular, aren't already destroyed in the distillation process. The separation also takes place very early on, so we only use the absolute heart of the distillation process. This is a very costly procedure, and I'm glad that Alexander Stein has gotten involved in this really expensive commitment to quality.
Alexander: Yes, that's true. Good taste can make you lonely and poor. But I didn't want to make yet another bland industrial Gin. I wanted to make one that's handmade from start to finish, in which you can detect absolutely everything that the distillation process makes possible. And at the end of the day, you can taste it.
Narrator: But even after distillation, Black Forest Dry Gin is a long way from being finished. Only when it's been stored for three months in traditional earthenware containers and married with the extremely soft water of its own Black Forest spring does the distiller develop a matchless harmony, and mellowness that makes Monkey 47 an absolute pleasure, either in a mixed drink or just on its own.
Monkey 47 is bottle unfiltered in individually numbered batches. The brown glass bottles were developed especially and recreate the traditional design of an old chemist's bottle, the brown glass protecting the volatile aromas from ultraviolet light. And the label on this bottle depicts? What else? A wild monkey.
Alexander Stein: When we were designing the label, we kept it in the style of the old British colonial postage stamps. And in the many detailed sketched by hand, we tell the whole story behind this Gin. Besides Indian images such as the Taj Majal, palm trees, and ornaments, you'll also find typically British insignia and the characteristic Black Forest landscape in miniature.
Narrator: From the tranquil Black Forest Valley, Monkey 47 has now embarked on its round the world trip, and will soon be available in over 20 countries on three continents. Aficionados, bartenders, and connoisseurs the world over have come to appreciate the incredible complexity and harmony of a Gin that Commander Collins invented as long as 60 years ago, mainly out of nothing more than a nostalgic yearning for England.
Alexander: Cheers. [00:10:48] [music]