MONKEY 47: How a Crazy Creature Has Taken the Gin World by Storm

This is the story about an international star on the gin scene.

Hand-crafted with 47 different botanicals, herbs, spices and fruits, MONKEY 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin offers a flavour that stands out from the preconceived notion of what a gin should taste like.

Gregory Chevillat is the General Manager at MONKEY 47, a position he has held for the last four years after 22 years within the Pernod Ricard Group in both Austria and Germany. Although French, he is no stranger to the culture and history that surrounds the Black Forest region and the mystery of MONKEY 47.

What is MONKEY 47’s origin story?

The story begins right after the Second World War when Montgomery “Monty” Collins – a British commander in the Royal Air Force – was posted to Berlin. While stationed there, he decided to participate in the restoration of the Berlin Zoo, where he developed a close bond with Max, one of the monkeys. 

A few years later, Monty left Berlin and settled in the Black Forest to pursue his dream of being a watchmaker. Unfortunately, he showed little talent and instead opened a country guesthouse named in honour of his animal friend – The Wild Monkey. 

To cut a long story short: when the founder of The Black Forest Distillery, Alexander Stein, eventually bought the property where Monty’s guesthouse had previously been, he found the remains of a recipe for “Max the Monkey – Schwartzwald Dry Gin,” with detailed descriptions of the ingredients. This piqued Stein’s interest, who set out to recreate Monty’s mysterious gin. After 140 trials, he finally perfected what is today known as MONKEY 47. 

What sets it apart from other gins? 

MONKEY 47 is an exceptional gin with a very different recipe. First, there are 47 hand-picked botanicals carefully selected to find just the perfect blend. Second, it’s prepared with water from the Black Forest region, which is known to be very soft. Finally, we allow the distillate to rest for at least three months. This mix of ingredients and different techniques gives a very complex gin that tastes like no other. 

That is only part of what we try to do differently. Without going into detail about all our methods and ingredients, I can say that everything we do here comes from pure craftsmanship and that MONKEY 47 is a genuinely handcrafted gin. To mention a few, we not only hand-pick our ingredients, but we also hand-peel our citrus fruits to make use of all the tasteful citrus oils. 

Our mix of ingredients and different techniques gives a very complex gin that tastes like no other

How would you describe the taste?

I prefer to serve MONKEY 47 as a Gin and Tonic. It’s a simple, fresh, and classic drink that people expect to taste a certain way. However, with MONKEY 47, a Gin and Tonic is a new experience. 

You will notice the difference at the first sip. Our unique blend includes 47 different botanicals, and each adds something. Of course, there is a distinct juniper flavour, but all the additional notes of lavender, citrus fruits, peppers – and our ‘secret weapon’ lingonberry – surprise many the first time they try it. 

We also do one very particular thing at MONKEY 47. In addition to the distillation, we percolate the liquid to add even more flavour. Add the fact that we also let the distillate rest for three months, and you will understand why this is a one-of-a-kind gin. We have struck the perfect balance between the alcohol and the aromas, which makes MONKEY 47  ‘Certainly Wunderbar’.

So, what’s happening in the world of MONKEY 47 right now? 

In April, we released the most recent batch of our ‘Experimentum’ series. This series is our way of paying homage to various places around the globe that inspire us. We try to capture the essence of each specific region and the aromas and tastes associated with it. In our latest release, ‘MONKEY 47 – 2y09: Rome,’ we have crafted a gin with hints of hazelnuts and cacao, reminiscent of a particular famous nougat spread. These are only distilled in very small batches, limited to 500 half-litre bottles, so our most hardcore fans and collectors have anticipated this release for quite a while. 

We have also released a ‘Distiller’s Cut’ each year, a real ‘fan favourite’ where we go wild and push the boundaries of the MONKEY 47 aromas. Whether there will be a 2024 release of the Distiller’s Cut remains to be seen, but something might be in the works.

Everything we do here comes from pure craftsmanship

Where has MONKEY 47 seen success so far?

Until recently, our German home market was the biggest for MONKEY 47. A year ago, however, the US surpassed it and is now our biggest in terms of volume. Over the past years, we have put a lot of effort into spreading the word about MONKEY 47, so it makes me proud to find it in bars in New York and Miami. 

The last few years have been a success story for MONKEY 47. For eight years in a row, we have been named the most trending gin by Drinks International. To achieve that and to remain at the top, you need to be edgy – sometimes crazy – and pay attention to details.

What is your view on conviviality?

For me, conviviality is something you apply every day. It’s about being approachable, knowing all colleagues by name, and letting them know they can contact you whenever they want. As General Manager here, I take a tour of the distillery each morning to say hello to everyone. That’s the starting point for being a creator of conviviality – to show that we respect each other and can be open-minded and transparent. When everyone here feels safe in being able to contact me about anything that needs addressing, I know that we have the right level of trust. That is at least a big part of what conviviality means for me.