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Genever? That’s not the brand name, that’s the actual spirit itself. Now I know, what is this doing in the Gin reviews? Well, Genever is basically the ancestor to all the Gin we know and love today. Still, however, it is not technically Gin. Genever is a spirit made from at least 50% malt wine and the remainder comes from neutral spirits with blends of botanicals mixed in, including, you guessed it, juniper. The malt wine is a combination of wheat, corn and rye that is triple distilled in copper pot stills, much the same way you would start a whisky. Only it will get fermented a few days longer, giving it a more funky and distinct flavor.
Hailing from Holland, Genever was brought to the English by King William I, a Dutch king, in 1688 because he loved it and wanted to share it. The English would later use Genever as their model for making gin, eventually leaving the malt wine behind and focusing on the botanicals instead as distilling techniques improved.
Genever even now has AOC’s so that like Champagne in France, or Cognac, the only true Genever (Jenever) comes from The Netherlands, Belgium and small areas of France and Germany. While many Americans will have never heard of it before, it is still the most popular spirit in Holland. Here in America, however, it was popular pre-prohibition and makes appearances in famous cocktail books like Jerry Thomas’ The Bartenders Guide from 1862 as ‘Holland Gin.’ After Prohibition, Genever wasn’t available in the U.S. until 2008 when Bols became the first to hit the market, but now there are a decent number of Genevers available for us to try if we’re willing to go looking for them. Today I’ll pop open some Bols Genever since it was the first to be offered Stateside.
Bonus Genever trivia: One of the vodka giants was actually first focused on Genever. That’s right, Ketel One or Ketel 1 as their Genever is called, saw the worldwide demand for vodka and capitalized big time.
The original recipe from 1820. Back then, Bols introduced a new recipe with a subtler and more harmonious taste. That’s the one that ended up revolutionizing cocktails. It’s still as complex and powerful today.Lucas Bols DistilleryClick to explore our complete library of reviews to help you choose your next perfect bottle.
- DISTILLER: Lucas Bols Distillery
- MASH BILL: At least 50% malt wine (wheat/corn/rye triple distilled in copper pot stills) and the remainder is neutral spirits with a botanical mix
- AGE: Unaged (but they do offer a barrel aged version as well)
- YEAR: 2017
- PROOF: 84 (42% ABV)
- MSRP: Generally $30-40 for a 1 L bottle
TASTE: Smooth, buttery mouthfeel with a medium-full body. A hint of cherry, but the star of the show is the balance between the sweet maltiness and juniper.
FINISH: Leaves a hint of warmth on the tail end with some earthy/grassy notes.
SHARE WITH: Any of your friends that love an interesting cocktail or quirky history lesson, but especially with your ‘whisky or bust’ friends that normally turn their noses up at gin.
WORTH THE PRICE: For 250 mL more than any whisky you’re buying (and probably at least $15 cheaper), it’s absolutely worth finding a bottle to flesh out your home bar.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: May not be something you’ll find at very many bars just yet, unless they have a pretty decent cocktail program. So in that case, go ahead, grab a bottle for yourself. It’s a great spirit to try and substitute in your favorite cocktails, or mix into a new recipe. Plus, it’ll be great to trick your whisky drinking friends into trying something new and different.
OVERALL: It’s a really interesting spirit and unique from anything I’ve had before. You can sip it neat if you’d like, that’s what I did at first and generally how it’s served in Holland, in small tulip shaped shot glasses that are so full you have to bend over and sip before picking them up. You can also certainly enjoy it chilled or on the rocks, build on it with tonic or go for the original Tom Collins (recipe below). It really is an intriguing mix between gin and unaged whisky, which makes it extremely versatile to use in cocktails instead of more familiar spirits. So grab that bottle and start experimenting! I know I’m planning to try making a Martinez next with it, but let us know what you try with Genever and what new discoveries you make about old favorite recipes. You better believe I’m going to #drinkcurious through this whole bottle.
- 2 oz Genever
- 1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Shake with ice, strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice and top with sparkling water
Garnish with a lemon wedge