There’s a Monkey in the Forest

We visit Monkey 47 Gin’s distillery, deep in the Germanic countryside.

Christoph Keller and his still

Every city dweller entertains the idea of running away to the countryside from time to time.

But I wonder how many of the UK’s urban bartenders have considered the German hinterland as a place to escape crowds and maddening traffic?

Having spent the day at Monkey 47 Gin’s distillery, tucked away in a little valley just outside of Stuttgart, I can report it should be at the top of your getaway list.

Simply put, the place is stunning. Driving from the airport to the distillery on a 30 degree day, the view is spectacular. The Alps loom on the horizon, and there are wide fields and thick forests on either side of the autobahn. It is bucolic, in other words.

The distillery itself sits within the grounds of an 18th Century water mill. The place is tiny, and as our group were given a brief tour of the site before lunch, I quickly realised that this was small batch production in the truest sense.

There are some 30,000 micro-distilleries in the area, mostly producing tiny amounts of fruit brandy. It’s a region that has booze in its blood, and Christoph Keller, the chap who actually makes Monkey 47, fits right in. We tried several of the brandies he makes, along with an absinthe – all were all exceptional.

Keller, and his business partner Alexander Stein, produce Monkey 47 in much the same manner as the artisan brandies – in tiny amounts, using almost prohibitively expensive ingredients.

Dan Priseman, pretending he doesn't envy Christoph's beard.

We spent some time in the mill’s large barn, adding botanicals to alcohol, placing the mixture in plastic tubs and mixing them using a motorized paint stirrer. There were 5 or 6 tubs being prepared, and I expected them to go into a still together. I was wrong – each tub represented a single run.

The still is tiny, and this is the smallest batch distilling I have seen.

Having watched our tubs of botanicals run through the gleaming copper still, we had a look at Christoph’s garden. It is home to a Victorian-style hothouse and rows of botanicals flourishing in the German sunshine. They grow as much as humanly possible on site, and as much care goes into selecting the right ingredients as does actually distilling the gin.

Needless to say, there is a certain amount of secrecy surrounding the amount and combination of botanicals (this is a gin, after all) used to produce Monkey 47, and the still also sports some trick modifications that Christoph was keen for us not to photograph.

What I can tell you is that the care and attention to detail I encountered that day were second to none. There’s a lot of metaphorical blood, sweat and tears in each bottle that find its way to your back bar.

I’ve liked Monkey 47 since I first tasted it a few months ago at Zetter Townhouse, it makes a cracking gin and tonic.

Having seen where and the way it is made, it has become a firm favourite. Next time Christoph and Alexander bring a group of British Bartenders to their little part of Germany, make sure you are on the trip.

You can read our article on Monkey 47’s UK launch, and the story behind the brand, here.