Styles of Genever
Genever is a carefully controlled spirit with many technical details to adhere to when distilling and styles to explore when drinking. Here’s a reference article to give you the low down…
By definition, Genever is a juniper-flavoured spirit, produced by flavouring ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin. In 2008, the European Union declared Genever a “Protected Product of Origin“, receiving its own appellation or AOC. Today, Genever can only be crafted in Belgium, the Netherlands and specific regions in France and Germany.
A joyous read and filled with gripping drama* can be found in the official document dictating these details (*please note sarcasm. Massive sarcasm. Please don’t make us read it again): Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 January 2008 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling, and the protection of geographical origins or spirits drinks.
Ironically, although the location and provenance of Genever styles are hotly scrutinised, all spellings (Jenever/Genever/Genièvre) are considered correct. As for how it’s pronounced? In the U.S., you mostly hear juh-NEE-ver or JEN-uh-ver. The Dutch and Belgian pronunciation is much closer to ye-NAY-ver. Whichever you choose, just don’t drink a few and start saying the variations really loudly and slowly at the bar. YEEEEEYY NAAAY VEERR. It doesn’t go down well apparently…
There are technically eleven different genever protections (AOCs) defining particular sub categories, although the three most common sightings are Oude, Jonge and Korenwijn.
While Oude and Jonge loosely translate to the English words old and young – in the context of Genever this term is not about the spirit ageing in barrels. The terminologies refer to recipes and distillation techniques; i.e. oude genever is the older style, using a traditional recipe; jonge is a newer style, using a more modern recipe.
Genever Styles and what defines them:
An older style of genever, oude is maltier and sweeter than jonge. Oude genever must consist of at least 15% malt wine, and at most, 50%; the remainder is neutral grain spirit. While each distillery will have their own style, the flavour is typified by its malty undertones, soft juniper backbone, botanical intensity and full mouthfeel.
Jonge consists of at most 15% malt wine; the remainder is neutral grain spirit, or in some cases sugar-based alcohol. Jonge genever tastes less like a malty gin that is reminiscent of Scotch and slightly more like Dry gin.
The maltiest of the trio, Korenwijn must contain at least 51% malt wine, but no more than 70%. Korenwijn is harder to find and tends to be more expensive. In our experience, these tend to be best served neat and savoured. They are quite remarkable.
Genevers you should try to get you started:
One of the bigger names in the Modern Genever era, Bols is available in almost all markets around the world. There is a complex mix of juniper, citrus and spice, but it’s the malty base that once again defines this Genever. The sweeter base spirit provides more floral and sugary notes. The balanced approach of malt wine, grain spirit and carefully chosen botanicals used in the creation of this version of Bols Genever, is in keeping with the revolutionary Lucas Bols recipe from the 1820’s .
This relatively large scale distillery has a range of classic Oude style of Genevers. Most have complex malty undertones and a slight spice with nutmeg and bitter cocoa aplenty. Perfect for sipping straight. In particular, try the Filliers’ 12 Year Old Oude Graanjenever
The 12 year old jenever uses a malt wine made up of 50% malt and 50% rye, as opposed to their younger releases, which use maize as well. The 12 year maturation then takes place in both American and Limousin oak barrels where they are blended with juniper distillates. A fantastic example of straight sipping, smooth spirit.
Established in 1975 by Fred van Zuidam. These days both sons Patrick and Gilbert run the distillery under the watchful eyes of their parents. The malted barley, rye and corn used for the Zuidam Genevers are milled by traditional windmills. Zuidam Genever is distilled from the finest selection of malted barley, rye and corn.
The mash of these grains is distilled three times in a pot still after a week of fermentation. The spirit is then aged in barrels for up to 10 years before bottling, further enhancing the malty, woody tones of this unique distillery’s Genever.
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