This year is shaping up to be the year of mizunara oak. For further evidence, look to the 2020 edition of Monkey 47 Distiller’s Cut. The new offering from the German gin distiller has been aged for six months in barrels made from the notoriously spicy and hard-to-work-with Japanese wood.
The nose intermingles juniper with the signature incense notes of mizunara oak. You’ll also find sweet spices, including cinnamon and nutmeg, bone-dry sawdust, and the cooling touch of spearmint and teaberry.
The palate starts off dry and hot with incense, oak, and warming spices, including more of that cinnamon and nutmeg. Juniper joins at the center, where its dry spice is tempered slightly by a touch of spearmint. The finish is ultra-dry, with notes of leather, straw, and something like an oak box that once held perfume a very long time ago. It’s played out with a touch of potpourri, whose floral flavors are stretched out to encompass the whole of its aggressively dry finish.
Yes, I know that the word “dry” was grossly overused in the preceding paragraph, but I can’t overemphasize just how dry this self-described dry gin gets. I imagine that’s the effect of coupling such a juniper-forward spirit with full-octane mizunara.
The Japanese wood has risen in status lately, and mizunara-finished spirits are no longer the rarity they once wore. But this edition of Distiller’s Cut is truly a mizunara lover’s gin: It brings the chalky dryness and church-incense notes of the unusual oak to full bore with glorious results—so long as you like mizunara.
Given its complexity I felt reluctant to mix it with tonic, but it proved to make an excellent G&T. The dry spice and oak notes practically stop the sweetness of tonic in its tracks. Yes, the tonic still has an obvious effect, but it’s remarkable just how much the wood and spice remain present in the mixed drink. Once it comes together with the bitterness of quinine, something really great happens.
However, my favorite application for this year’s Monkey 47 Distiller’s Cut was in a Dry Martini, made with five parts gin to one part vermouth. It started sharp, bracing, and dry on the front-half of the palate, just like you’d want and expect from a London Dry. But a wave of mizunara oak spice on the back that climaxes with leather and nutmeg proved a welcome reminder of just how different an animal this monkey is.
The 2020 edition of Distiller’s Cut hits U.S. shores on November 1st, to the tune of just 2,000 375 mL bottles. If your taste preferences include dry gin and mizunara, I’d recommend you make a move early.
— 47% ABV
— $80 (375 mL)