Gin Gents

Monthly Archive: June 2015

MONKEY 47 GIN: It’s just wrong!

Brand: Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin

Style: Dry (they say)

Distillery: Black Forest Distillery

Imported by: Sidney Frank Importing Co. Inc., New Rochelle, NY

ALC: 47%

Average US Retail Price: Expensive as all get out, especially for just 375 measly ML



Review and Photos by Jim Trotman


“Monkey 47 is the greatest gin I have ever tasted. It’s as good as it gets. If ever a gin deserves 100 points it’s this.”

These are the words of Robert M. Parker Jr, one of the world’s leading wine critics, famous for his 100-point scale and his newsletter, The Wine Advocate.

Mr. Parker, I beg to differ. Even better, I beg to face palm. facepalmThere, I did it.

The quote is used on a full page ad for Monkey 47 and having tasted it, I think Mr. Parker needs to stick to wine.

Folks, what we have here may have a winner for the strangest tasting gin of all time.

It is absurdly complex, it is nose-bleed expensive and I found it horrid.handcomparison

This stuff gave me a severe Jägermeister face. Not that it tasted exactly like it, but I tell you this, it comes close. There is this herbal assault that grabs your mouth, vapors of a whole greenhouse so strong you think it would knock the taste buds out of your mouth. That would be merciful. Instead, it lingers. I just took a sip now just to make sure and now I have to drive to the 7-11 to get an Icee to wash this all away.

And we thought Uncle Val’s was rough.

It is fun, once one samples for themselves and draws their own conclusions, to look around at what others have to say about a particular gin. Many review sites are not honest.

You can tell by how they talk all around the taste and never really tell you their honest opinion. They do this because they do not want to suffer advertiser backlash. Perhaps they get their samples for free and don’t want to upset the apple cart.

But I tell you this for real, Russ and I (okay, mostly Russ) buy the gins we drink with our (his) own money. If it is a skunk, we will tell you it is a skunk.

This Monkey is a skunk. To me. Personally, anyway.

On the plus side, the container is rather handsome, a medicinal looking brown bottle, short and squat with an amusing, highly detailed label with scrolls, an English crown, the Black Forest of Germany, and a not particularly cute monkey. In fact, on closer inspection, the poor little fella is clutching what appears to be a branch that is no longer attached to anything.

labelHe has no visible means of support. [Label pic]

I have this recurring pain in my right elbow from repetitive motion that comes from retouching with a graphics tablet. Seeing as how Monkey 47 resembled an ointment of sorts I rubbed a little on the painful area. It actually made it feel better! I’m not fooling.

Monkey 47 is marketed to the hipster niche, and I’m sure they will hit their mark. If not, they can maybe try pharmaceuticals

But it just does not taste good.

Now I’m sure, just as some people like escargot and some would never think of eating snails, someone out there probably likes this. Thinking this might be the case, at a recent dinner party we invited guests to taste it. Two people out of eight, said they found no fault with it. So there you go.

But, and this is just one 375 ML bottle, and after seven tastings by five people, it still remains half full.

I rest my case.

Other than it’s medicinal value, the saving grace of this whole experience is that at least I didn’t buy it.

Russ did.

And if Mr. Robert M. Parker Jr. is reading this, I hope you got paid well, son.


Russ’s Review

You can pay $10 to gain admission into a zoo, stand in front of the monkey exhibit, and have them fling poo at you.

Or, you can plunk down $50-$70, depending upon where you buy gin and drink something that tastes like monkey poo.

If you choose the latter, you probably took the bait from all the cool advertisements in wine and spirits magazines extolling the virtues of Monkey 47, a German gin previously unavailable in the United States.

The fact that it is now available here is perhaps one of the few arguments this libertarian can come up with against the concept of free trade.

And for that $50-$70 you are rewarded not only with a drink that doesn’t even come close to tasting like gin, you only get half a bottle (375 ml), or as Jim and I like to say, “Hey, there’s only half a bottle left, we’re out of gin. Crack another bottle open, please!”

From my perspective, Monkey 47 (named so because it has 47 botanicals in it, although we’re not sure about the monkey part of the name) tasted, as Jim said, like medicine. Or bad licorice. Or perhaps they share a factory with Jaegermeister and the stuff accidentally got mixed together–kind of like peanut butter and chocolate in Reese’s cups, but with the opposite tasting result–monkey poo instead of a perfect marriage.

It is simply impossible to describe the taste of this stuff. The only truth in the advertising they publish is Monkey 47 is indeed complex.

But so is the process of decomposition and I don’t bottle that and peddle it as something worth buying.

wholebottleOh yeah, as for juniper. It ain’t there.

Their web site claims a “pure scent of juniper.”

That’s a load of M.S. (Monkey Shit).

Nothing, and I mean nothing, could save this gin.

Except to chase it with an old Southern USA standby-RC Cola.

Straight out the bottle–medicine. On the rocks-medicine. As a gin and tonic, medicine and tonic.

And of course, no one but Robert Parker, the guy who apparently can taste the difference between  wine rated 97 and one rated 96 could possibly appreciate 47 botanical tastes vying for attention on your palate.

To be fair, we passed this around to other gin drinkers.

Not a single one was willing to call it a gin and among the four other tasters, only two liked the taste.

But they thought of it as more of a liqueur type concoction than the subject of this blog–gin.

So, there’s our $50 worth.

Wish it been two cents worth–because that’s our rating….

PS: Last time I checked with Jim, to whom I gladly bequeathed the remainder after our taste testing, the bottle was still not empty.

That’s never happened in our tastings before. Even Uncle Val’s was eventually consumed!






Plymouth Navy Strength Gin

Style: Plymouth-Navy Strength (Fire breather)

Distillery: Black Friar’s Distillery, Plymouth, England

Producer: Coates and Company, Plymouth, England, UK (distributed by Pernod Ricard)


ABV:  57%

Price: All over the board–$25 to $38. Available online where legal.

Jim’s Review


So, what happens when you take a nice, sturdy and elegant gin and then boost its alcohol percentage up a good 16%?

Firewater, that’s what you get.

And that works out because that’s what they needed.

As the story goes, the Navy required a stronger concoction to be dubbed Navy Strength.

Any sailor, or even a casual cruise goer, will attest that space on board a ship is limited.

Trade cargo would be stashed together as compactly as possible, and then the combustibles, in this case gunpowder and gin, would be stored in close proximity as well.

Whereas a good gin will still do its job if it gets a little gunpowder in it, gunpowder will refuse to do its job if it gets even a little wet. Regular gin will prevent gunpowder from lighting.

But amp up that alcohol and the gunpowder, even moistened by Navy Strength Gin, will still burn.

We tried it. There’s a video and everything.

Here it is:


Out of the powder keg and onto the lips this one took some work to try neat.

Yes, I know it was meant to mix, but mercy, that’s a firecracker.

On the rocks, it is still a bear but doable.

It is clear this one is meant to carry its strength through as a mixed beverage.

And it lingers. In the classic Mel Brooks comedy, Blazing Saddles, a fully inebriated Gabby Johnson has only to exhale in the face of a villain and the guy falls over.

plynavystrngth copy

Photo by Jim Trotman. History lesson by Jim Trotman The British Empire was vast and it was brokered with the help of the Enfield P1853 Rifle Musket, an example of which is shown here. These were revolutionary at the time and outfitted the far-flung British military from 1853 to about 1867, when many were converted to breech-loaders using the new fully encased metal cartridges. This particular rifle was made in 1861, exported to the Confederate States and was carried in the American Civil War. If you have one of these beauties and fire it, as I do, you usually have a little black powder on hand. And I did

If you want to try that move at a party, this may be the drink that will do it.

In another sense though, you could think of Plymouth as a person of average height and weight of good character, who turns into the Incredible Hulk at Navy Strength.

Interesting to meet and hang with on an occasional basis. I give both a thumbs up, but in my house, that Navy Strength bottle is going to last a long, long time.


Russ’s Review


Somehow, methinks the Navy Strength gin lasted a shorter time at Jim’s house than he predicted. Just saying.

We actually have two videos, one comparing the two gins with some black powder we have laying around the neighborhood in case the British attack us with muskets and we want to even the fight by not using our AR-15’s, and the other of us having our first sip.

My first words were “Ow!!” as it moved from shot glass, past the lips and onto my soon-to-be third degree burned tongue.

Unlike a nice gin buzz, the warmth generated here that spread to my face, ears, and upper chest was more akin to a hot flash. (And yes, since I take Niaspan for cholesterol, even I, as a mere male, know the sensation.)

As Jim noted, on the rocks things didn’t get much better.

I’d say rather than a British gin, it’s more a Brutish Gin…one concocted in the mean streets of Liverpool as opposed to a refined London distillery.

I doubt you’ll find it being served in one of those fancy gentlemen’s social clubs on Fleet Street.

As a gin and tonic things noticeably improved.

Here the gin retains all of its traditional gin elements, but rises above the tonic in such a manner than you have a GIN and tonic rather than a gin and TONIC.

In that context, it rocks, and I would rate it highly.

But you will lose the Plymouth citrus balance in there that makes it slightly different from a London dry.

The alcohol takes control of that situation, and juniper is what you are left with for the most part.

And the ability to set fire to small house plants by exhaling on them.

But don’t forget that alcohol content—it will sneak up on you. Best to avoid at parties and bars if you have a long night planned.

To paraphrase Toby Keith in his song “Weed with Willie” you might find yourself singing:

“I’ll never drink Navy Strength Plymouth again.

My party’s all over before it began.

You can pour me some regular Plymouth my friend,

But I’ll never drink Navy Strength Plymouth again (unless I’m at home)”


Harold’s Review

Having said wonderful things about the gentleness and drinkability of Plymouth gin, I need to make clear that the same isn’t true of its more assertive (nasty) brother.

Plymouth Navy Strength has no subtlety about it.

It punches you in the nose before it gets to your mouth and then had all the gentleness of a fiery car wreck.

I’m not sure if it shares any spices or tastes with its brother gin, because after sipping a shot glass of it, I had no sense of taste or smell left.

Nor can I recall reading much on the label, except to be sure I could tell it from the more drinkable version.

Maybe the story about being a black powder rejuvenation elixir is true, or perhaps on small British sailing ships, perhaps getting the most alcohol in the least volume of storage was the issue, but I can assure you they didn’t carry it for its taste!

Rough stuff, the Navy version of Plymouth, even for a guy who thinks Beefeater is smooth!

I’ll pass!

Plymouth–It’s not your father’s car, but it might be his gin!

Plymouth Gin


Style: Plymouth

Distillery: Black Friar’s Distillery, Plymouth, England

Producer: Coates and Company, Plymouth, England, UK (distributed by Pernod Ricard)


ABV: 41.2%

Price: $28-$35. Widely available in most states, high-end bars and online

Russ’s Review

Plymouth. It’s been around since 1793 and for good reason.

It’s damn good gin.

There was a time when Plymouth and Boodles were right up there on the shelves of good bars and liquor stores with Tanqueray and Bombay.


Photo by Jim Trotman

But Plymouth was left behind when huge conglomerates purchased Tanqueray and Bombay, literally saturating the market with their main gins and all their new variations.

But that fact doesn’t deter me from keeping Bombay on my shelf.

Until this month, I could only buy it up in Virginia, a 90-minute drive from the Outer Banks.

But now, the North Carolina ABC store in Nags Head is carrying it again. For how long, who knows? It’s been an on again, off again thing here for two decades.

Part of why I love Plymouth is its history.

There was a time when England boasted three styles of gin—London, Liverpool and Plymouth.

London was not just juniper forward, many brands were and are juniper heavy.

Liverpool style disappeared long ago so I never got to try it.

But Plymouth, a huge port home to the Royal Navy and British merchant ships boasted several distilleries and being so close to port, Plymouth style became the gin of choice for seafaring men—and subsequently spread throughout the British Empire.

There is no defined standard for Plymouth-style, but most histories of gin note the spirits produced in that town had more detectible citrus notes than their London cousins.

Now, only one Plymouth style gin remains and, of course, it is eponymously branded “Plymouth.”

So why do I love it so much?

Pour some in a shot glass and waft it under your nose.

Oh yeah, there’s juniper. But wait, the alcohol scent, while present, doesn’t singe your nose hairs. It’s actually pleasant.

And there’s some lemony thing going on, as well as a hint of spice.

Now throw that shot glass back.

Smooth. Baby-butt smooth. Kenny G smooth. A right-wing politician with slicked-back hair smooth.

OK—maybe the last one was a stretch.

You’ll love the subdued alcohol burn while the juniper dances around with some citrus notes.

And then it comes to you.

You can bring this gin to any gunfight you want and it will keep right on being smooth, but with enough backbone in flavor to survive even an onslaught of WalMart brand tonic water.

Shake it up in a martini and it slides right down.

Pour it over some ice—even those cubes that have been in the icemaker for a month and reek of plastic and it retains it’s gin like character without an overwhelming essence of Pine Sol.

Personally, I think Plymouth, like Boodles, puts Tanqueray and even Bombay to shame. Neither of them are this slick.

Smooth, juniper-y, lemon like, and still some spice.

You will also detect notes of cardamom and coriander.

Cardamom is most likely what drives Plymouth’s citrusy, even lemony notes.

Cardamom is a common traditional gin botanical and when used correctly, it also serves to reduce the alcohol burn and take juniper down a notch without relegating it to the background.

And the coriander adds to the citrus sensation and perhaps provides a pinch of sweetness.

Juniper is still the star, but it doesn’t dominate like LeBron James.

Plymouth’s juniper plays more like Steph Curry—allowing it’s other botanical teammates to shine.

In a gin and tonic, Plymouth continues to shine and this is why I like it so much.

It will hold its own against tonic water, rising above the quinine and even a fresh lime squirt, still retaining it’s flavor profile, including those citrus notes and the delightful juniper presence.

Unlike other “gins” we’ve reviewed, I’m not drinking “flowers and tonic” or “apple and tonic” or a gin so lacking in character (Bristol Bay) that I’m thinking “Wow, I’ve got a freaking glass of tonic and tonic.”

Oh yeah. It’s good.

And who the hell am I to argue with 222 years of history and the Royal Navy?

Give it a shot. Or a double shot.

Hell, break those AMA binge drinking guidelines and drink a few doubles!

Jim’s Review

Ahoy! It is safe to say that, like the British Empire at one time, the sun never sets on a bottle of Plymouth Gin.

Plymouth, as with many a sailor’s DNA, was spread all across the globe by wind and sail.

From their own website: “Thanks to the British Royal Navy taking it on ships all over the world, it was to become the world’s largest volume brand of gin with 1000 cases a week going to New York alone by the 1900’s.” Thanks indeed.

It may have much more competition these days but this is still a widely available gin.Plymouth_Gin_Distillery

Hey, I can even get a bottle here in the gin dessert of Dare County, North Carolina!

The even better news is that it is good, really good. It is at once bold and smooth with a complex citrus sensation that rides on the back of warm juniper notes. The mouth-feel is rich but not cloying, and I found the finish crisp and clean. Exactly what I look for in gin.

Naturally one is tempted to compare Plymouth, which is its own style, to the venerable London Dry kings such as Boodles, Beefeater and the like.

In my mind, Plymouth is less dry than it’s London neighbors but I don’t notice a great deal of difference as to amount of juniper in the equation. It could be the mix of the other botanicals that make the juniper a sharper part of the whole. The London Dry gins share many characteristics of this taste profile, but I discern a sharper edge on the Plymouth.

Am I making sense?

Harold’s Review

I am a guy who drinks gin usually on the rocks with nothing added except a LOT of ice and sometimes a splash of tonic…splash being defined as less than a tablespoon.

That drives me toward the really smooth gins, Boodles being my favorite since it can be commonly found (except in Dare County, NC). 

Regular strength Plymouth reminds me of Boodles. 

It has no perceptible “burn” on the lips or tongue and none of the pine/juniper scent that comes to the front in so many gins, especially the cheaper brands of the London Dry variety.

Having said that, my everyday gin has been Tanqueray, and I like a little juniper presence and even enjoy a taste of alcohol, especially in a G &T. 

Plymouth is the best of both worlds.

Plymouth3It is reasonably priced in most places and pleasant consumed in almost any drink. 

Over ice it is very smooth, and while I ordinarily add some lime to my drinks, with Plymouth it really wasn’t necessary, since it has some hint of citrus in its scent and taste. 

I’ve read that in part that may be due to the cardamom, the world’s 3rd most expensive spice, which can have a lemon or lime hint.  It is used in some medicines as an anti-irritant for the digestive tract as well as for adding a subtle zing.  Whatever it is, it earns its keep in Plymouth Gin.

The Plymouth folks have used the right touch with their recipe of ingredients and have succeeded in creating a wholly enjoyable gin that is cooling and smooth over the lips and past the tongue.