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Batch LXXIX. Schwarzwald, Wednesday March 20, 2019 NO. 47
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Distillation and Percolation

The distillation process we use is a complex one. Along with conventional maceration and distillation techniques, we employ the principle of percolation, which involves channelling alcoholic vapours through more fresh botanicals using Carter-Head stills. This distillation approach enables our master distiller to single out and highlight specific flavours within the composition of the distillate’s aroma and intensify volatile and subtle elements (such as floral notes) as a counterpoint to the more dominant components.

We take extreme care when distilling by applying the least possible pressure, slowly rising temperatures, and gentle cooling. This is incredibly time-consuming, but it ensures that the fragile, flowery aroma components in particular aren't destroyed in the distillation process. The follow-up separation phase also takes place very, very early on, meaning we only use the absolute core of the distillation process.

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In our maceration process, we steep botanicals in a mixture of highly rectified ethyl alcohol and soft Black Forest spring water for "one day and two nights", or precisely 36 hours. Contrary to popular belief, cold maceration involves steeping these ingredients at a warm ambient temperature – in our case, around 20 degrees (Celsius). Like in so many things, the key here is to find the best possible balance:

Depending on the type and variety of ingredients you use, tannins that produce unwanted aromas can also develop over time. Ultimately, the ample empirical evidence we compiled in the two years we spent developing the Monkey’s aroma profile determines how long we macerate.

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The Anatomy of Aroma

Percolation, Carter-Head stills, fragile fragrances - why does everything have to be so complicated? "You can't do it any simpler" is one possible answer, but it's not the right one. It actually has to do with the internal relationship between taste and smell, the latter of which plays a special anatomic role due to it being the oldest of our senses in evolutionary terms. Unlike our other senses, it bypasses the thalamus (in the brain) and sends information directly to the amygdalae and frontal lobe.

The variety of olfactory data that arrives here is combined into an overall impression. The information is also passed on to further regions of the brain that link the smell at hand to emotions, desires, or motivational functions and store it in our memory. This is why smells tend to evoke feelings and have a conditioning effect on our sense of taste. Assembling a fully fledged composition of aromas thus requires a range of different methods, and as you've probably guessed, there's nothing simple about it.

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The Production Process

Our approach to distillation is a complex one: It involves both distilling the macerate and using steam extraction to channel the alcoholic vapours through fresh botanicals using a Carter-Head still. Steam extraction is what enables the master distiller to selectively regulate the distillate and coax out its individual notes with a high degree of precision. The resulting distillate is then allowed time to harmonise and develop a perfect balance.

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Water: The Foundation of Every Distillate

The extraordinary quality of the Black Forest's spring water is essential to what we do. With its low levels of salt and other minerals, this water is the perfect complement to all types of distillates - especially the one that makes Monkey 47. To avoid losing the subtle aromas that are vital to our gin, we deliberately forgo the type of cooling treatment typically applied. Apart from a coarse filtration process involving a sheet filter, Monkey 47 is left entirely unfiltered to preserve its full range of complex aromas. We can't imagine doing it any other way!

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The Botanicals, Part VI: Tangy

We produce our gin's characteristic tangy notes through a complex combination of citrus fruits and herbal ingredients. Alongside bitter orange and lemon balm, we also use the seeds of the local Angelica archangelica. From the beginning, we had a fresh, zesty gin with very delicate citrus aromas in mind, and we set out to find it with a similar pep in our step. Like many of those who try their hand at something new, we questioned everyone and everything - especially when we found out that no one had ever used anything but dried fruit peels to make gin.

We didn't know why that was, but we quickly determined that fresh peels would be the only option for us. Experiments with fresh lemons and grapefruits followed, and we were thrilled with the results - at first, at least. Experiencing the gin itself was pure bliss, but acquiring those precious fruits posed a real challenge. We were only interested in using the peels of fresh lemons and grapefruits, so they needed to be entirely untreated; that meant no fungicides, pesticides, wax, or anything else. Driven once more by our botanical curiosity, our search led us to the foot of Mount Etna, Europe's largest active volcano. In the Sicilian community of Sant'Alfio, which lies on a plane of lava that cooled more than 2,000 years ago, pesticide-free lemons flourish thanks to the mineral-rich volcanic soil. It's the ideal environment for producing the essences that are so fundamental to the taste and aroma of Monkey 47. Plus, the Fiery One is even kind enough to provide the necessary fertiliser through its natural dispersal of volcanic ash, which is guaranteed to be free of any additives.

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The Botanicals, Part V: Floral

Infusing a gin with a fresh floral note is one of the most refined arts in distillation. In addition to lavender, the traditional source of the flowery aromas in commercial gins, we use the blossoms of Black Forest acacias and wild honeysuckle, as well as orris root, jasmine, and blossoms of Monarda didyma (scarlet