We are a gin blog. But to neglect Genever is like forgetting to call your parents on their birthdays. Its gin’s predecessor, the ancestral spirit from which modern day gin evolved.
What is Genever (quickly, in <100 words)
Genever is graded on a scale from jonge, to oude, all the way up to korenwijn by how much of the spirit is made up of malt wine and how much sweetening is legally allowed. In addition to sugars, distillers add botanicals (juniper chiefly) to create the drink’s unique flavor. Genever highlights the base spirit’s character and its primary flavor generally comes from that rather than the botanical mix.
About Filliers Oude Graanjenever (in <100 words)
Firstly, if a product bears the name graanjenever, it must have been distilled in Belgium, the Netherlands, or a couple small parts of Germany of France. The term is protected as a name based appellation. It also means that a spirit is distilled from only malt and grain. Secondly, this is an oude style of genever, which means that it contains at least 15% malt wine (think literally a distilled beer, about 100+ proof) by volume. Its been aged for 5 years in American Oak, but that fact has nothing to do with the word Oude.
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There’s a whole lot of gins experimenting with Genever-style warm wheat bases, but surprisingly few craft distillers outright experimenting with Genever.
There’s probably an element of business logic in there. Gin is a hard sale to some as it is, but at least people know what to do with it what they get it: whether that’s Tonic, Martini, or even Gin and Juice. But Genever?
Genever falls into a category of secondary spirit styles. Some of these secondary spirits have their day. Mezcal has emerged from the shadows and is now trendy and showing up at places not known for cocktail craft. Cachaça is hot and only going to get hotter. Expect the whole world to be talking it when the World Cup and Olympics hit Brazil in 2016. Some of these secondary spirits, such as Arrack or Aquavit, never quite have their day in the sun but still have their ardent supporters. Genever is in this later category. Those who know Genever, know it, and know what to do with it. And to those who don’t, it’s a hard sell. Therefore if you’re a small distiller trying to keep yourself afloat, you’re going to tie your fortunes to known and established spirits.
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Way back before this American Dry/London Dry business, there was Dutch Genever. and things were good. Genever is truly a throwback in gins, with Bols’ recipe going back to one created in 1820.
Genever is a legally protected name, so alike real champagne, the origins are certain. As a protected name it implies its origins in Belgium, Netherlands, or a couple provinces of Germany or France. Bols is from the Netherlands where it has operated at the center of the Dutch distilling industry since the early 17th century.
On to the drink. I’ve read many descriptions of Genever, but the one that makes the most sense to me is the comparison of Bols Genever to that of a white whiskey. It is malty, thick, and complex. That complexity is due to the combination of botanicals. Juniper is present but just another flavor. The drink is simultaneously spicy and earthy, the taste has hints of fresh pine forest (or for those of you who haven’t spent time in the woods, maybe a Christmas tree stand and nutmeg.) It feels smoky without that overwhelming dark peat flavor of scotches. This is a tough gin to review, because the closest parallels for reviewing are in the whiskey family.
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