We all know Zuidam Distillers for their Millstone whisky, but they also produce gin, rum and vodka. Then they’re also honouring the Dutch traditions by making genever (or jenever in Dutch).
Originally a malt wine (triple-distilled spirit from a fermented grain mash) to which juniper berry extracts were added. Nowadays these malt wines are hard to find as most genever is now based on neutral spirit. It is a historical precursor to gin, although the juniper component is usually a lot less dominant.
Currently there is an official classification with three types of genever:
- Jonge genever: the young, modern style with less than 15% of malt wine (often much lower) and an ABV upwards of 35%
- Oude genever: the old style with at least 15% malt wine. The most popular type among artisan distillers, with an ABV upwards of 35%
- Korenwijn: literally grain wine, with at least 51% malt wine and an ABV of 38% or higher
Once very popular, but now largely fallen into oblivion except for a few producers in The Netherlands and Belgium (such as Filliers or Braeckman). Most of what you’ll find here are fruit genevers, neutral spirits with an artificial fruit flavouring. At the same time there is a (very modest) revival of artisan genever, with some distillers experimenting with cask ageing and wood types that sound familiar to whisky lovers.
Zuidam Oude Genever 12 yo 2008 (38%, OB 2021, Oloroso sherry cask #R346)
Nose: a really good Oloroso cask is what I’m getting mostly. Figs and hazelnuts, with hints of dark chocolate and red berries. Then orange peels and strawberry candy mixed with tobacco leaves. Brown bread underneath, as well as light earthy touches.
Mouth: surprisingly sweet, now coming really close to a Brandy de Jerez. Cherry syrup and latte with caramel topping. Hazelnut cream, later also walnut cake. Then plenty of sultanas, candied oranges and hints of crème brûlée. Drops of Bénédictine in the end.
Finish: medium length, with more sherry goodness. Sultanas, chocolate coated nuts and sweet herbs. Never woody.
A funny spirit since there is little grain or genever to be found – pretty neutral after all. It makes this a really nice advocate for sherry casks, more than for genever in my opnion. Overall it’s a little too sweet for my taste, but a nice sipper nonetheless. While this particular bottle seems to be sold out, you should be able to find a similar release at all times. Whiskysite.nl is still offering samples.