Name: Monkey 47 (47% ABV)
Distilled: The Black Forest, Germany (otherwise known as Schwarzwald)
Encountered: At a posh bar in equally posh Winchester, southern England. I asked what gins they had and chose Monkey 47 from the list because it had 'monkey' in the title. Because - monkeys.
Flavours According to Me: REALLY FRUITY! While also being sharp at the same time. It's not like any gin I've tasted yet. You wouldn't think fruitiness would go well with the dryness of gin, yet it does in this case.
Actual Flavours: I wasn't wrong about the fruity. Monkey 47 contains plenty of fruit (including Lingonberry - a curious but pleasingly different choice) and plenty of every thing else, as it has 47 different botanicals in it. As well as all the usual suspects (cassis, cinnamon, bitter orange, lemon, lime, angelica root etc), I was happy to learn that Cranberry features in this particular gin. Which makes a lot of sense, given that cranberries produce a dry, sharp flavour that compliments the dryness and sharpness of juniper very well. It's actually surprising that we don't see it in more gin recipes.
Monkey 47 is also lovely and floral - containing plants I'd never heard of before - scarlet bee balm to name one, and lavender to name something that everyone's heard of. There's also sage, rose hip, jasmine, honeysuckle, elder flower and dog rose, to name but a few. It's a veritable garden of flavour.
Extra Good Stuff: What extra do you really need when it comes to a gin that has had every possible flavour on earth (or at least, in Germany) shoved into it? If you want to pass a fun and quirky, gin-themed few minutes though, check out the official web site, which is full of bizarre mini news stories centred around The Black Forest, and appears totally bonkers.
Trivia: So, here's the story of Monkey 47 gin as I understand it (read it in a book) - there once was an RAF pilot named Montgomery Collins, who moved to the Black Forest after World War II was over, (or sometimes during the 1950's, depending on which source you listen to) to set up a watchmaking business. Only, he didn't know a thing about watches, so he ended up running a guest house. He named the guest house 'The Wild Monkey' after a monkey he had sponsored at Berlin Zoo.
At this point I need to break off and say that this man is my hero. I can only dream of this level of weird and wacky adventure. Anyway, back to the story.
So, the guest house did alright, and at some point, Collins took to distilling fruit spirits, which included gin. After that the story gets hazy, and we do not know what happened to him, except to say that many years later, a case of gin labelled 'Max the Monkey Black Forest Dry Gin' was discovered by a German man in Detroit (I'm not sure about the logistics or the geography here but go with it), who decided to move back home to the Black Forest, set up shop and create his own gin, based on that of the strange ex-RAF monkey appreciating watchmaking, guest house running master distiller. He called it Monkey 47 (for the 47 botanicals in it) and created a limited amount of the stuff, releasing it in 2010. As he hadn't any experience of actually making gin, he recruited someone to help him. It then won prizes internationally, and so it carried on, and carries on today. Phew!
This is the kind of story that makes me feel hopeful that I too can one day become a master gin maker. Apparently experience isn't always needed. Unless you are going to the business of making watches.
You can't Judge a Bottle By It's Cover: The Monkey 47 bottle is rounded, squat and made of brown glass. It looks like a medicine bottle you might have on the shelf in the kitchen in 1435 or similar. I like the thought of that - curing all ills with alcohol infused with all the plants, fruits and spices under the sun. The label looks like an oversized postage stamp, and hooray! It has a monkey on it.
Did I Like It? This is my favourite gin so far. It's distinctive - it stands out. The more botanicals in a gin, the more chance of all the flavours getting lost. But this one is good. It works. I have asked for a bottle of it for Christmas.
Can You Buy It? You can! Which bodes well for me this Christmas, although given that it appears to be retailing online for between £36 and £40 (Amazon is selling it for £34, but there's a delivery charge), I might not want to hold my breath.
Gin For Tea Rating: Out of ten gin-filled teacups, I give Monkey 47 a rating of 9. That's a lot of teacups full of gin. It was certainly very, very nice indeed. And given that it's quite strong, I felt more than a little squiffy afterwards.
Name: Colombo Gin (43.1% ABV)
Distilled: London, UK (but once upon a time in Sri Lanka, where it was invented).
Encountered: I decided to take a chance and subscribe to a gin club. It's called I Love Gin and every month they are going to send me a different gin to try. My first delivery arrived last month. I ripped open the box excitedly, and there were two mini bottles of Colombo staring up at me (I like to think they were singing 'drink me!')
Flavours According To Me: It tastes very peppery, which you'd expect, as it's a Sri Lankan gin billed as being spicy!
Actual Flavours: The information leaflet that came with my I Love Gin box says it contains: Sri Lankan cinnamon bark, curry leaves and ginger root, as well as angelica, coriander and liquorice root (and juniper of course). Very spicy indeed!
Extra Good Stuff: Colombo is distilled using just 7 botanicals, most of which are native to India. Curry leaves in particular are a pretty unique ingredient for gin.
Trivia: Colombo is the commercial capital and largest city in Sri Lanka, which was known as Ceylon until 1972. A young Asian distiller decided to create Colombo Gin using local ingredients, to prove to British Customs and Excise officers that a good London Dry gin did not need to be distilled in London. Of course, he was right.
You Can't Judge a Bottle by It's Cover: The label looks regal - green, white and gold with an intricate design.
Did I Like It?: It went down very easily! I put the recommended black peppercorns in my gin and tonic to see if that brought out the flavour, despite being initially a bit reluctant (peppercorns in a drink?!), and surprisingly it worked very nicely. It takes a few minutes for the flavour of the peppercorns to infuse with the liquid. After that I got an extra little kick every time I took a sip. Try it!
Can You Buy It?: You can buy a bottle for £27.50 on the Gin Festival web site.
Gin For Tea Rating: A very respectable 7 teacups out of 10. I'm having a hard time giving any gin I've tasted so far below a seven. I just really, really like gin. And this was a good experience because it was delivered right to my doorstep, along with tonic water and rose lemonade too, so all I had to do was put it all in a glass and add the peppercorns! I really liked the spicy flavour and it went very well with the curry we had for dinner.
I also love being part of a gin subscription service! I'll write more about that another time.
Christina, 32, London. Likes gin.