Montgomery Collins, the forefather of Monkey47, spent his early years in India, which is what makes his gin so exotic. As the son of a diplomat, it is likely that he was in contact with a maharaja, although we can't be certain of this. At the time when he ran his "Wild Monkey" guesthouse in the Black Forest, however, he would have been able to meet a very special maharaja only a few kilometers away. In his book "Die Welt des Gesangs" ["The World of Song"], the world-famous baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau declares his love of music. He mostly examines classical sounds, but the highly critical and analytical Fischer-Dieskau goes into raptures about three giants of jazz who have left a lasting impression on him: Ella Fitzgerald, the "Queen of Jazz", Edward Kennedy Ellington, more widely known by his nickname of "Duke" Ellington, and the "Maharaja of the keys", as Ellington referred to the Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson – presumably because there were no other titles of nobility left. After giving recitals at the Metropolitan Opera, the classical singer liked to frequent New York's jazz clubs to listen to these greats. A man called Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer made it easier for himself and invited them straight to his house in the Black Forest. But what tempted the crème de la crème of jazz to come all the way from America to the small town of Villingen?
A clock-making factory there evolved into the "Black Forest Appliance-Building Institute," or SABA for short. To begin with, they produced components for wireless receivers, and after the Second World War, they also made radios, televisions, and tape recorders. Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer, the grandson of the SABA founder, was the company's technical director and, because of his passion for jazz, he concentrated on music recordings. At his Black Forest villa, he built a recording studio, where he soon began to publish outstanding records under the SABA and MPS ("Black Forest Music Production") labels. Brunner-Schwer (also known as "Millionen-Schwer", or "multimillionaire") regularly held house parties in the 1960s, to which he invited several illustrious guests, including some of the greats of German and international jazz. For legal reasons, he wasn't able to work with Oscar Peterson in the studio, but nobody could stop him from recording his own house party. So he phoned the US to issue his invitation and offered the same fee that the jazz pianist would otherwise receive for a major concert. The management approved this rather unusual concert, and several more were to follow between 1963 and 1968. In the early 1970s, Peterson was even under contract at MPS. And this is how Peterson's most intimate sound portraits in the Black Forest came about, which fascinate jazz fans and critics alike.
A technical virtuoso on the piano, Peterson's style was both extremely relaxed and highly concentrated in these almost private surroundings, where he could let himself go and revel in the elation that his enthusiastic audience afforded him. Only Brunner-Schwer wasn't there. Shortly before the start, he left his living room and went to his recording studio on the first floor, where he could join in the concert experience. When Peterson heard the recordings, he is said to have described them as his best ever. Not only the music and the cocktails brought Peterson back to the Black Forest time and time again, but also the friendship that had developed between him and Brunner-Schwer, although the German could speak only a few words of English. The result of this friendship can be heard on the recording entitled "Oscar Peterson – Exclusively for My Friends." And a quick tip for even greater listening pleasure: Indulge yourself in THE classic gin highball developed by the British in India – gin and tonic.
To ice add 4 cl of Monkey47 and top up with 16 cl of tonic water. And for those who like it a bit more adventurous than with just a slice of cucumber or lemon, try it with a bag of infused malva tea. Here's to the Maharaja!