The low-down on: Genever

What? The traditional juniper-flavoured spirit from which gin derives (the Dutch word for juniper is jeneverbes – hence the name jenever or genever).

Age: Certainly over 400 years old, possibly as old as 800.

Nationality: Dutch and Belgian (with a bit of French and German).

What makes it interesting? Any number of reasons. It combines the mixability of a white spirit with the complexity of a dark spirit. It’s a protected spirit category so can only be made in The Netherlands, Belgium and parts of France and Germany. In Jerry Thomas’s bible of classic cocktails, the Bartenders Guide, many of the gin drinks would have been made with a spirit that was closer in style to genever than modern gin.

How’s it made? Fermented grain – rye, corn and wheat – is distilled into ‘malt wine’, which is then blended with a distillate of botanicals. Genever is pot-distilled, which helps give it the characteristics of a light whisky. While juniper is among the botanicals used, it tends to have a less dominant role than with gin. Genever can be aged or unaged.

Key styles: Corenwijn is the maltiest style of all; oude is the traditional style of genever; jonge is the least malty style and the closest in taste to vodka.

Why now? Bols recently relaunched its Genever in Australia with a special evening at The Barber Shop in Sydney. The premium gin category is outperforming premium spirits; genever is arguably a natural extension.

What’s its potential? Bols brand ambassador Dylan Howarth says, “As soon as people taste genever they convert quickly and enjoy drinking something a little different. The sky is the limit and other influential markets such as the US and UK are growing this category in double digit growth year on year.”

Traditional serve: In a tulip glass filled to the top. A neat serve highlights genever’s malty complexity.

And a cocktail? Howarth recommends ‘The Holland House Cocktail’, a mix of Bols Genever, fresh lemon juice, Bols Maraschino and dry vermouth.

Not to be confused with: Geneva. That’s a city in Switzerland.

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